I thought it’d be useful to do a little post on the sheer scale of global corporations, so below I simply list the top 10 by revenue and then in italics next to them I’ve put the countries who rank immediately below them by nominal GDP* at 2016 figures.
The Fortune 500 magazine publishes the list of the top 500 global corporations by revenue annually.
The Fortune Global 500 top 10 list by annual revenue (published 2017) are:
- WalMart Stores (US) – $485.8bn (Poland – $467 bn, GDP rank 35 )
- State Grid (China) – $315.1bn (Denmark – $306 bn, GDP rank 24 )
- Sinopec (China) – $267.5bn
- China Natural Petroleum (China) – $262.6bn (Chile – $247 bn, GDP rank 44)
- Toyota Motor (Japan) – $254.7bn (Finland – $246 billion, GDP rank 45)
- Volkswagen (Germany) – $240.2bn
- Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands) – $240bn
- Berkshire Hathaway (US) – $223.6bn
- Apple (US) – $215.6bn
- Exxon Mobil (US) – $205bn (Portugal, $204 billion, GDP rank 47)
- (The 10 poorest countries in Africa – approx combined GDP = $190bn)
The top 10 companies in the list above consists almost entirely of Chinese and American firms – just three are from different countries: Germany, Japan and The Netherlands. The largest British firm on the list by revenue – BP – comes in at number 12.
More than a fifth of those on the latest list – 109 companies – call China home, up from only 29 companies a decade ago.”
Banking was the industry with the most number of companies on the list, at 55, followed by automakers/parts suppliers with 34, and petroleum refiners with 28.
In terms of countries, all of the very large population countries are way more economically powerful than any of the TNCs, and nearly every relatively large population Western European countries are richer than those TNCs.
However, there are plenty of European powers which are mixing it in with these corporations and only TWO African countries which mix it with the top ten TNCs – Nigeria and South Africa.
*I know there are problems comparing GDP and Revenue! I covered that in a previous post…
Just for contrast… the Top 10 Largest UK companies by revenue are:
- BP – $186,606m
- Legal and General Group – $105,235m
- Prudential – $96,965m
- HSBC Holdings – $75,329m
- Aviva – $74,628m
- Tesco – $74,393m
- Lloyds Banking Group – $65,208m
- Vodafone Group – $58,611m
- Unilever – $58,292m
- SSE – $37,813m
It’s probably worth noting that 5 out of 10 on the above list are finance related companies (banking or insurance), while the rest really just provide ‘basic’ products – energy, communications and retail products. So the top end of the UK economy consists of a wierd combination of companies producing ‘the basics’ and ‘the evil dark arts of finance’. Thus you might say that our economy is 50% tangible or real.
Are Corporations more Powerful than Nation States?
This is all very well and good, but what does all this tell us about the power of TNCs compared to countries? Are TNCs actually more powerful, or is using revenue and GDP misleading? While they do both provide a measure of money flowing into a Corporation or a country on a yearly basis, they don’t take into account the nation state’s power of taxation and its (supposed) monopoly on certain forms violence…
Of course if we take the countries which rank above the top 10 companies – the USA, China and so on, it seems sensible to suggest that these two entities work hand in hand (Rex Tillerson being just the most obvious example), but when it comes to African nations, who barely register among the big boys, do they have any chance of standing up to such huge TNC entities?
Or is all of this moot with the rise of alternative economies, given that all of the above is measured in dollars?!?