The Fortune 500 is to Fortune magazine as the Indianapolis 500 is to Indianapolis. Mention Fortune and most people will immediately think of the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest companies.
Fortune has been compiling the list for 64 years and the companies on the list now account for two thirds of U.S. gross domestic product, having produced $12.8 trillion in revenue last year while employing 28.2 million people worldwide.
Without looking at the list, you might guess that it’s topped by a high-tech company like Apple, Amazon or Goggle. Yet ranking is based on revenue and Walmart has topped the list for six consecutive years.
Walmart is likely to continue its run, since #2 ExxonMobil’s revenues are less than half of Walmart’s ($500,343 million vs. $244,363 million).
Apple dropped a spot this year to number four, but it is the most valuable company on the list, with an $850 billion market cap, and the most profitable company, with $48 billion in profits. The 2018 list was published in May and since then Apple has reinforced its position, becoming the first company with a market cap exceeding $1 trillion.
Given that rankings are based on revenues, it’s perhaps not surprising that retailers rank high. Yet it’s the first time Amazon made the top 10, ranking number eight.
Long-time Fortune 500 companies such as General Electric and Xerox still rank relatively high on the list, but they are slipping. GE fell five spots to No. 18, which is its lowest ranking ever on the list.
Xerox, meanwhile, fell further than any other Fortune 500 company, dropping from #162 to #291. Last year Xerox was a target of activist Carl Icahn, whose Icahn Enterprises ranks #136 on this year’s Fortune 500 list.
“The once-great company was an ideal candidate for Icahn,” according to Fortune. “It consisted of two divergent businesses, both of which were performing poorly — its traditional office products franchise, and a large division that provided back-office bill-paying and data processing services to companies and governments, a field called business process outsourcing (BPO).”
Xerox, whose name was once synonymous with copying, still makes desktop printers, but do you know anyone who owns one? At least the company diversified enough to survive,
Auto companies are also big revenues producers and it’s probably not surprising that General Motors has ranked high on the Fortune 500 since the list’s inception. This year, it dropped two spots to #10. Tesla, meanwhile, made the biggest jump forward of any company on the list, advancing 123 spots to #260.
GM is the largest company in America headed by a woman. It is one of only 24 companies on the list with that distinction.
Nvidia, which has been on the list for only two years, leads the list in five-year returns to shareholders. The company jumped 80 spots to #306 this year as, Fortune noted, “its innovative microprocessors found their way into more data centers, powering cutting-edge technology from self-driving cars to deep-learning systems.”
Netflix (No. 261) led in 10-year shareholder returns.