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How the World’s Biggest Companies Have Changed in Just 10 Years

How the World's Biggest Companies Have Changed in Just 10 Years

How the World’s Biggest Companies Have Changed in Just 10 Years

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

At first glance, the business world may seem quite static.

The biggest companies today – ones like Apple, Walmart, or Exxon Mobil – will likely also be some of the biggest companies tomorrow. Fast forward a week, a month, or a year, and odds are that they will still be at the top of the food chain.

But fast forward any further, and those odds change considerably. In a decade, there just has to be one bad strategic decision, a missed trend, or a colossal managerial mistake, and you have the next Kodak, Blockbuster, or Sears.

A Changing List

Every year, Fortune publishes a ranking of the world’s top companies by revenue.

We compared the 100 highest revenue companies in both 2008 and 2018 to see how much things change in ten years – and the results are pretty astounding.

The most fundamental finding: 43 of the 100 companies on top of today’s list were not there ten years ago. Some of the “new” entries, like Amazon or Huawei, are to be expected – but other companies like Microsoft or Apple are more surprising.

In 2008, for example, Apple was ranked just #337 in global revenue, and today it comes in 11th place.

A Closer Look at the Top 10

The full graphic looks at the Top 100, but let’s zoom in just to the very top.

Here were the top 10 companies in 2008:

Rank (2008)CompanyCountryRevenue
#1WalmartUSA$378.8 billion
#2Exxon MobilUSA$372.8 billion
#3Royal Dutch ShellNetherlands$355.8 billion
#4BPUK$291.4 billion
#5Toyota MotorJapan$230.2 billion
#6ChevronUSA$210.8 billion
#7ING GroupNetherlands$201.5 billion
#8TotalFrance$187.3 billion
#9General MotorsUSA$182.3 billion
#10ConocoPhillipsUSA$178.6 billion

Ten years ago, oil prices were sky-high and the list was dominated with energy names like Total, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. Amazingly, ING Group was the only financial company to make the list in 2008, but it has since fallen to #171 globally.

Let’s jump to the 2018 list:

Rank (2018)CompanyCountryRevenue
#1WalmartUSA$500.3 billion
#2State GridChina$348.9 billion
#3Sinopec GroupChina$327.0 billion
#4China National PetroleumChina$326.0 billion
#5Royal Dutch ShellNetherlands$311.9 billion
#6Toyota MotorJapan$265.2 billion
#7VolkswagenGermany$260.0 billion
#8BPUK$244.6 billion
#9Exxon MobilUSA$244.4 billion
#10Berkshire HathawayUSA$242.1 billion

While the modern list has just as many energy names, half of them are now Chinese companies like State Grid or Sinopec Group.

Meanwhile, the staying power – at least in terms of revenue – of companies like Walmart, Toyota, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP is quite impressive.

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