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Business Analysis & Features

Fortune Global 500: Shell yields the top spot as world’s No 1 but top firms stay in rude health

The oil giant was overtaken by Wal-Mart as the world’s biggest revenue earner but, as Mark McSherry reports, 27 other UK firms made it to the Fortune Global 500 list of biggest companies

The latest “Fortune Global 500” list of the world’s biggest companies by revenues shows that the largest firms were back in rude health in 2013, with all-time records for profits and revenue.

Fortune’s 500 biggest global companies made combined revenues of $31.1 trillion (£18.2 trillion) last year, up 2.5 per cent from 2012, and combined profits of nearly $2 trillion, a jump of 27 per cent.

Fortune said Vodafone was the company on the list with the biggest profit for 2013 – more than $94bn – but that was helped hugely by the sale of a massive stake in US joint venture Verizon Wireless.

The number of Chinese companies in the 500 rose by six to 95, but America still claimed the most firms with 128, down four from 2102. Japan had 57 companies, down five.

The UK had at least 28 companies on the list, but Wal-Mart regained the top spot from Royal Dutch Shell.

America’s 128 firms on the list reported $8.6 trillion in revenue, while China’s 95 companies reported revenues of   $5.8 trillion.

Banking was the most represented industry on the list with 55 firms, followed by petroleum refining with 40 and motor vehicles and parts with 33.

British companies

Although Royal Dutch Shell lost the number one spot to Wal-Mart, Britain still had at least 28 companies in the Fortune Global 500, with the aerospace giant Rolls-Royce making the list for the first time at number 489, as its 2013 revenues passed $24bn.

Shell was number two in the rankings, with more than $459bn in 2013 revenues  and profit of more than $16bn. Fortune said a 4.6 per cent drop in sales helped to knock the company off the top spot it had held for two years, as well as a near-40 per cent fall in 2013 profit due to low production, high costs and refining problems.

The next biggest British company was BP at number six with revenues of $396bn. Fortune said BP’s 2013 profit more than doubled to $23.8bn, even as it continues to deal with the damage from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tesco came in at number 63 with $103bn revenues, HSBC Holdings was number 77 with $97.5bn while Lloyds Banking Group was at number 94 with $83bn.

Then came Prudential at 95, Vodafone Group at 141, Aviva at 157, Legal & General Group at 159 and Barclays at 171.

The other British companies on the list were: Rio Tinto, SSE, Royal Bank of Scotland, Centrica, GlaxoSmithKline,  J Sainsbury, Standard Life, Old Mutual, Anglo American, BT, Morrisons, Compass Group, BAE Systems, AstraZeneca, Standard Chartered, International Airlines Group, Rolls-Royce and British American Tobacco.


The number of female chief executives in the Fortune Global 500 has risen to a record 17, with women taking the top jobs at some of the world’s most famous companies.

Leading the pack is Mary Barra, the first woman chief executive of General Motors. Ms Barra took over in January at a tough time for the company. So far this year, GM has recalled at least 29 million vehicles, more than half of them because of potentially defective ignition switches blamed for at least 61 crashes.

Maria das Graças Silva Foster took over at Brazilian oil giant Petrobas more than two years ago while Meg Whitman took the helm at Hewlett-Packard and saw its stock price almost double in 2013.

Ginni Rometty runs IBM and gained admirers earlier this year when she would not accept her annual bonus because the company failed to meet quarterly expectations.

Fortune said PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi continues to push the food and drinks giant into healthier product markets and keep the company together despite shareholder pressure to break it up.

Marillyn Hewson runs defence giant Lockheed Martin, Ellen Kullman runs the DuPont conglomerate and Lynn Good heads Duke Energy. Carol Meyrowitz, who runs retailer TJX, is the highest-paid woman running an American Global 500 company, according to consultancy Equliar.


China dominates the list of 23 new companies added to the Fortune Global 500, with seven joining the elite.

Those companies include Agricultural Development Bank of China, the state-owned bank that is heavily involved in Beijing’s massive effort to develop the country’s rural areas. It had almost $433bn in assets at the end of 2013, ranking it among the top 10 banks in the world, according to SNL Financial.

Another is privately held CEFC China Energy, which specializes in the trading of oil, natural gas and petrochemicals and had revenues of $34bn.

Much bigger is China Development Bank, the highest-ranking newcomer to the Global 500, which reported revenues of $71.3bn and profit of $12.9bn. Fortune said this bank has supported the Chinese government’s macroeconomic policies via $160.2bn in loans to fund new urbanisation projects.

Other newcomers include China Energy Engineering, responsible for 90 per cent of the country’s electricity and energy projects, and privately held Pacific Construction Group, which is involved in a $3.5bn project to flatten 700 mountains for a major development in western China.

Emerging markets and brics

The so-called Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and other countries considered “emerging markets” figure prominently in the Fortune Global 500 list.

China long since broke on to the global scene and it has 15 companies in the top 100 alone and 95 in the Global 500, including oil and gas giant Sinopec at number three, China National Petroleum at number four, and energy behemoth State Grid at number seven.

Brazil has at least seven companies in the Global 500, led by Petrobas at number 28. The oil giant had revenues of about $141.5bn in 2013, according to Fortune.

Brazil has several banks in the top 500, and also metal and mining company Vale, which reported revenues of $48bn.

Russia has at least eight firms on the list, led by energy giants Gazprom, Lukoil and Rosneft, which reported revenues of $165bn, $119bn and $117bn respectively.

India also had at least eight companies, including Tata Steel and Tata Motors, but India’s biggest firms in the 500 were listed as Indian Oil at number 96 with revenue of $81bn, conglomerate Reliance Industries with revenue of  $73bn, and Bharat Petroleum with $44bn revenues.