General Electric still on top in America

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The Independent Online
GENERAL ELECTRIC has retained its position as America's most powerful company, according to the annual survey by Forbes magazine, despite losing the number one market capitalisation slot to the IT giant Microsoft.

For the second year running, GE, the US manufacturing giant, has topped the prestigious "Forbes Super 100", which ranks American companies according to sales, profits, market value and assets.

A 13 per cent surge in 1998 net profits to $9.3bn (pounds 5.5bn) ensured that GE, led since 1981 by Jack Welch, remained at the top of the Forbes' profit rankings. Despite only ranking second in market value and fifth in both sales and net assets, GE's combined score was sufficient to ensure that it beat its rivals to the top slot in the Super 100, which will be published in full by Forbes on Monday.

During 1998, according to the Forbes analysis, Microsoft shrugged off its antitrust troubles to more than double its market capitalisation to $404bn (pounds 250bn), easily trouncing GE in the race to become America's most valuable company.

Microsoft's market value first overtook that of the US electricity giant last September, a milestone seen by many as a telling indicator of changes in the American economy, where there has been an explosion of high-tech companies. This picture was borne out elsewhere in the Forbes market capitalisation listings, where other major movers included and Yahoo!, which saw their market values surge by 917 per cent and 744 per cent respectively.

Although Microsoft may have toppled GE in the market capitalisation rankings, it has a long way to go before it clinches the Super 100 top spot. The IT giant came in at number thirty-two in the Super 100, with Citigroup - the financial giant formed by the merger of Citicorp and Travelers - coming in at second behind GE.