There are 648 ‘Hall of Fame’ companies that have been on every Global 2000 list over that past two decades, but only two, ExxonMobil and Bank of America remain in the top ten after 20 years.
By Hank Tucker and Andrea Murphy, Forbes Staff
It may seem as if corporate monoliths like Apple, Amazon and JPMorgan Chase are untouchable, dominating their competitors and destined to remain among the world’s largest and most valuable companies for generations, but when Forbes released its first Global 2000 ranking the world’s largest companies in 2003, Apple was No. 963 and Amazon was No. 1,178. Both companies were recovering from the dotcom boom and bust, with Apple’s unveiling of the first iPhone four years away and Amazon early in its transformation from online bookseller to an everything store. Global money center bank JPMorgan was already well-established at No. 24 on the list, but its $755 billion in assets trailed then-No. 1 Citigroup’s $1.1 trillion as America’s largest bank.
Top 10 Turnover
Investing in the top 10 on the Global 2000 in 2003 wouldn’t have paid off; Citigroup, GE, AIG, BP and Fannie Mae have all lost value. Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to investing.
Those three corporate leaders are among 648 “Hall of Fame” companies that have been on the Global 2000 all 21 years (see the full list below), but just as notable are the companies near the top of 2023’s ranking that weren’t even listed in 2003. Except for Alphabet, formerly known as Google, list leaders not present on 2003’s ranking are all non U.S. corporations. Saudi Aramco, the state-controlled oil producer that went public in the biggest IPO ever in 2019 and has been in the top 5 all four years since, is this year’s No. 2. The next three are all Chinese banks: ICBC otherwise known as Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China. ICBC’s $6.1 trillion in assets are the most of any company in the world, and the other two also dwarf top ranked JPMorgan’s $3.7 trillion in assets. (The Global 2000 ranks companies based on assets, revenue, profit and market value, and JPMorgan’s substantially higher market cap than its Chinese peers gives it a higher rank on the list.)
ICBC entered the list for the first time at No. 53 in 2007 following its October 2006 IPO and was No. 1 for nine years running from 2013-21. China Construction Bank went public in 2005, and Agricultural Bank of China joined them on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges in 2010. In total, 346 companies based in China and Hong Kong are now on the list, up from just 43 in 2003. In fact there are no fewer than six Chinese companies in the top 20 today, all but one, Shenzhen’s Ping An Insurance (assets: $1.6 trillion), is controlled by the Chinese government. Twenty years ago, not a single Chinese company was in the top 20 of the Global 2000.
Following The Money
The cumulative sales, profits, assets and market value of the companies on the Global 2000 have multiplied in the last 20 years.
Sliding in the other direction, Citigroup, General Electric and insurer American International Group were the top three companies on the list in 2003, and none are in the top 20 today. Citigroup is now No. 24 after its exposure to subprime mortgages threw it into crisis during the Great Recession. It survived thanks to $476 billion in federal bailout money and guarantees, but its stock hasn’t fully recovered. Its $90 billion market value is down 57% from $211 billion in 2003 at the time of our inaugural list, primarily due to a 94% decline in the three years from 2007-09.
AIG was another casualty of the financial crisis, needing a $180 billion federal bailout, and its market value is down 74% from 20 years ago. It’s on this year’s list at No. 123. General Electric, once a rock-solid blue-chip stock during Jack Welch’s reign from 1981-2001, is also a shell of its old self. Its market value is down 62% from 20 years ago, though it’s more than doubled since last summer to hit a five-year high, helping lift GE from No. 224 last year to settle at 64th on this year’s Global 2000.
The most severe stock declines of the last 20 years among the 648 Hall of Fame companies belong to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at more than 99% each. The government-sponsored firms underpinning the secondary market for home mortgages both collapsed into government control in 2008 and were delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in 2010. Both still trade over the counter and have enough assets, revenue and profit to remain on the list, though their market values are less than $1 billion each. Fannie Mae has fallen from No. 8 in 2003 to No. 338 today, and Freddie Mac is down from No. 21 to No. 363.
Apple stock has been the top performer in the Hall of Fame, gaining 41,700% in the last 20 years, from a market value of $6.6 billion to $2.7 trillion. Amazon is next with a 7,600% gain from $14 billion to $1.1 trillion. A $10,000 investment in Apple in 2003 would be worth $6.4 million today, including reinvested dividends. Had you split your $10,000 between Apple and shares of Amazon in 2003, it would be worth $3.5 million today. Investing your $10,000 equally among the top 10 Global 2000 companies in 2003 would have grown to only $20,700, versus $63,600 for a $10,000 investment in the S&P 500.
Apple and Amazon are the only Hall of Famers among the FAANG stocks that propelled the decade-long bull market of the 2010s, an acronym that had no meaning in 2003. Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard, Google wasn’t a public company yet and Netflix was still a couple years removed from getting laughed out of the room by Blockbuster when it tried to sell itself for $50 million. Google (now part of Alphabet) went public in 2004 and first appeared on the list in 2005 and Facebook (now Meta Platforms) debuted in 2013 following its IPO. Netflix entered in 2011 at No. 1,969 in 2011 and 223rd this year, while Blockbuster last appeared on the list at No. 1,965 in 2006.
In terms of industries, financial companies including banks and insurers dominated our list in 2003 and continue to do so today. Energy companies like Shell and ExxonMobil also have maintained a strong presence. Twenty years ago, the only technology company in our top 20 was IBM. Today Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung are in the top 20.
In the next 20 years, if history is any guide, some of this year’s top companies are sure to falter, others that are currently buried on the list behind 1,000 other companies could become the next Apple or Amazon. The only safe assumption is that there are no guaranteed winners that are invulnerable to the next wave of disruptors.
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