The world’s 10 most powerful companies – FOUR are Chinese

Forbes has just released its index of the world’s biggest, most powerful companies – and Chinese companies take positions one, two, eight and nine.

It’s also the first time a Chinese company has ever topped the Global 2000, which ranks the “biggest, most powerful public companies”.

Companies are ranked on an equal weighting of sales, profits, assets and market value.

So who are these uber-big-shots? And what on earth do they all do to make so much money? You will not, dear reader, be surprised to learn that many are banks. But not all…

1. ICBC

Country: China

Industry: Banking

You might not know ICBC, but everyone in the world’s most populous country sure does.

The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China has almost half a million employees, more than four million corporate clients and nearly 300 million individual customers. Sales have increased 24% in the last year, and profits 17%.

2. China Construction Bank

Country: China

Industry: Banking

CCB’s profit grew 14% in 2012, and has jumped up 11 places in Forbes’ Global 2000 since last year.

CCB had almost 14,000 branches in mainland china at the end of 2011, and overseas branches in Hong Kong, Singapore, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Seoul, New York, Ho Chi Minh City, Melbourne and Sydney. It is one of four Chinese banks in the list’s top 25.

3. JPMorgan Chase

Country: U.S.

Industry: Banking

This 200-year-old US investment bank now has assets of $2.4 trillion – that’s roughly equivalent to the UK’s GDP. It operates in more than 60 countries and has 260,000 employees. It’s managed to slide into third place despite having to write off $6bn last year due to rogue trader “the London Whale”. Stick that in your blowhole.

4. General Electric

Country: U.S.

Industry: Conglomerate

GE is the US’s largest conglomerate, with a market cap of more than $235bn. It’s been going more than 130 years, and describes itself as a “global infrastructure, finance and media company taking on the world’s toughest challenges”.

5. Exxon Mobil

Country: U.S.

Industry: Oil & Gas Operations

Exxon Mobil is the most profitable company in the world, but it seems it scrimped on branding and PR, as its strapline “Taking on the world’s toughest energy challenges” has clearly been poached from top-10-list-buddy General Electric. It is the world’s largest public oil and gas company, and comprises 10 separate companies spanning various types of energy and chemicals.

6. HSBC Holdings

Country: UK

Industry: Banking

Our only home-grown entry into the top 10, HSBC flies the flag for the UK with a £123bn market cap. It was founded in 1865 to finance trade between the West and Asia, and today has almost 60 million customers across the world.

7. Royal Dutch Shell

Country: Netherlands

Industry: Oil & Gas Operations

Okay, maybe we can claim a bit more UK-ness in the list, as we classify Shell as Anglo-Dutch. It operates in 90 countries, having been founded almost two centuries ago from a small shop in London. It produced more than three million barrels of oil a day last year. Market cap is £135bn.

8. Agricultural Bank of China

Country: China

Industry: Banking

Blimey, yet another Chinese bank. Sales, profits and assets all grew in double digits last year. The bank has evolved from a state-owned specialised institution (no prized for guessing what sector it specialised in) in the 70s to a state-controlled commercial bank. It restructured into a joint stock limited liability company in 2009, and floated on Shanghai Stock Exchange and Hong Kong Stock Exchange the next year.

9. Berkshire Hathaway (joint 9th place)

Country: US

Industry: Diversified Financial

Warren Buffett is one of the world’s top five biggest philanthropists, and you’d hope so too – profits at Berkshire Hathaway were up a colossal 45% in 2012. You will recall his February acquisition of Heinz for $28bn, proving Berkshire Hathaway is far from a has-bean.

9. PetroChina (joint 9th place)

Country: China

Industry: Oil & Gas Operations

Profits fell last year at China’s most powerful oil and gas company, but it still managed to make it to the top 10. It listed in 2000 on the New York Stock Exchange and Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and followed up with a 2007 listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Before reading anything about HSBC, people should go to youtube: 1) How HSBC Chairman Mr Flint lied to shareholders. 2) Protest against HSBC in Mumbai. 3) Help Stop Bankers Cheating


    Before any Company engages in doing business with HSBC is it compatible their own Business Code of Behaviour

    Senate investigation concluded that HSBC provided a, quote, "gateway for terrorists to gain access to U.S. dollars and the U.S. financial system."

    Senator Levin said HSBC had been ‘pervasively polluted for some time’.

    Can the world forget the last ten years of HSBC Group helping Drug Cartels, Iran, Libya, Cuba and ignoring USA Trading with the Enemy Acts, even after being warned it still continued, who was the Finance Director? Mr FLINT

    What HSBC has now admitted to is, more or less, the worst behavior that a bank can possibly be guilty of.

    These crimes were so obvious that apparently the cartels in Mexico specifically designed boxes to put cash in so that they would fit through the windows of HSBC teller windows.

    People judge a company for what it has done in the past , what HSBC has done in the last ten years has it been criminal behaviour?
    Mr Flint you have not met the expectations of the people in India or the Regulators around the world.

    HSBC did meet the expectation of overseas Banks with links to terrorist financing, HSBC did meet the expectation for Drug Cartel's wanting to launder drug money.and as far as contributing to the fulfilment of their aspirations and ambitions you did fulfil their ambitions of laundering money.

    Which HSBC did that for many years. HSBC takes compliance with the law, wherever it operates, very seriously.

    In India HSBC has killed the aspirations and ambitions of so many people by falsely registering them with CIBIL, asking people to sign blank LOI's, demanding money illegally.


    Can Society or the Regulators forget or ignore the innocent Victims of HSBC in India.


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