Charting the Last 20 Years of Supertall Skyscrapers
At the end of the 20th century, supertall skyscrapers—buildings exceeding 300 meters in height—were still somewhat of a novelty in the world.
Only 24 supertall skyscrapers existed at that time, with half of them located in U.S. cities. That list included iconic structures such as the Empire State Building and Willis Tower, as well as newer landmarks like Atlanta’s Bank of America Plaza.
According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) database, the following buildings comprised the world’s full roster of supertall skyscrapers in 1999:
|Building Name||City||Height (m)||Height (ft)||Completion|
|One World Trade Center||New York City 🇺🇸||417||1,368||1972|
|Two World Trade Center||New York City 🇺🇸||415||1,362||1973|
|Petronas Twin Tower 1||Kuala Lumpur 🇲🇾||452||1,483||1998|
|Petronas Twin Tower 2||Kuala Lumpur 🇲🇾||452||1,483||1998|
|Willis Tower||Chicago 🇺🇸||442||1,451||1974|
|Jin Mao Tower||Shanghai 🇨🇳||421||1,380||1999|
|CITIC Plaza||Guangzhou 🇨🇳||390||1,280||1996|
|Shun Hing Square||Shenzhen 🇨🇳||384||1,260||1996|
|Empire State Building||New York City 🇺🇸||381||1,250||1931|
|Central Plaza||Hong Kong 🇭🇰||374||1,227||1992|
|Bank of China Tower||Hong Kong 🇭🇰||367||1,205||1990|
|85 Sky Tower||Kaohsiung 🇨🇳||348||1,140||1997|
|Aon Center||Chicago 🇺🇸||346||1,136||1973|
|The Center||Hong Kong 🇭🇰||346||1,135||1998|
|875 North Michigan Avenue||Chicago 🇺🇸||344||1,128||1969|
|Burj Al Arab||Dubai 🇦🇪||321||1,053||1999|
|Chrysler Building||New York City 🇺🇸||319||1,046||1930|
|Bank of America Plaza||Atlanta 🇺🇸||312||1,023||1992|
|U.S. Bank Tower||Los Angeles 🇺🇸||310||1,018||1990|
|The Franklin - North Tower||Chicago 🇺🇸||307||1,007||1989|
|JPMorgan Chase Tower||Houston 🇺🇸||305||1,002||1982|
|Baiyoke Tower II||Bangkok 🇹🇭||304||997||1997|
|Two Prudential Plaza||Chicago 🇺🇸||303||995||1990|
|Wells Fargo Plaza||Houston 🇺🇸||302||992||1983|
With the exception of the original World Trade Center towers in New York, all these iconic structures are still standing. Of course, there is now a much bigger cohort of skyscrapers sharing the skyline with them today.
20 Years of Supertall Skyscraper Construction
In the 21st century, at least one supertall skyscraper has been completed every year. In 2019 alone, the world built more of these incredible structures than the total that existed in 1999.
Here are the 20 tallest skyscrapers completed in the past 20 years:
|Building Name||City||Height (m)||Height (ft)||Completion|
|Burj Khalifa||Dubai 🇦🇪||828||2,717||2010|
|Shanghai Tower||Shanghai 🇨🇳||632||2,073||2015|
|Makkah Royal Clock Tower||Mecca 🇸🇦||601||1,972||2012|
|Ping An Finance Center||Shenzhen 🇨🇳||599||1,965||2017|
|Lotte World Tower||Seoul 🇰🇷||555||1,819||2017|
|One World Trade Center||New York City 🇺🇸||541||1,776||2014|
|Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre||Guangzhou 🇨🇳||530||1,739||2016|
|Tianjin CTF Finance Centre||Tianjin 🇨🇳||530||1,739||2019|
|CITIC Tower||Beijing 🇨🇳||528||1,731||2018|
|TAIPEI 101||Taipei 🇹🇼||508||1,667||2004|
|Shanghai World Financial Center||Shanghai 🇨🇳||492||1,614||2008|
|International Commerce Centre||Hong Kong 🇭🇰||484||1,588||2010|
|Lakhta Center||St. Petersburg 🇷🇺||462||1,516||2019|
|Vincom Landmark 81||Ho Chi Minh City 🇻🇳||461||1,513||2018|
|Changsha IFS Tower T1||Changsha 🇨🇳||452||1,483||2018|
|Suzhou IFS||Suzhou 🇨🇳||450||1,476||2019|
|Zifeng Tower||Nanjing 🇨🇳||450||1,476||2010|
|The Exchange 106||Kuala Lumpur 🇲🇾||445||1,460||2019|
|Guangzhou International Finance Center||Guangzhou 🇨🇳||439||1,439||2010|
With activity that reflects the country’s meteoric economic rise, China is an obvious point of focus in the skyscraper conversation. The world’s most populous nation been on a remarkable building tear in recent years, with activity spread throughout the country. No fewer than 30 Chinese cities added supertall skyscrapers to their skylines in the past two decades.
Vertical construction in the United States has been primarily focused in one of the original skyscraper hubs, New York City. In the long, storied history of skyscraper construction in New York City, it’s interesting to note that 8 of its 10 tallest buildings were built in the past 15 years.
Of course, no conversation about skyscrapers is complete without mentioning Dubai. No city on Earth can match the sheer magnitude of supertall skyscraper construction there—a remarkable feat considering the UAE’s size compared to the other two leaders, China and the United States. Over that past 20 years, Dubai added 23 supertall skyscrapers to its skyline, including four that are taller than the Empire State Building. Remarkably, there are another ten buildings under construction today that surpass the 300 meter mark.
What the Future Holds
The process from conceiving to completing supertall skyscrapers can take many years—especially as these ambitious structures reach higher into the sky. For example, the Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen was first proposed in 2008, but not completed until 2017.
This multi-year process means that the pipeline of upcoming skyscrapers is very predictable. According to CTBUH, there are currently 132 supertall skyscrapers in various phases of construction around the world right now. That’s more than five times the number of existing supertall structures that existed at the dawn of the new millennium. This includes the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, which will be the first skyscraper to hit the one kilometer mark – shattering the record height set by the Burj Khalifa.
Over the next 20 years, as economic fortunes shift and architectural innovations advance, it remains to be seen what heights future skyscrapers will reach.
Visualized: The Biggest Ponzi Schemes in Modern History
Learn the stories behind some of the world’s biggest Ponzi schemes in this illustrative infographic timeline.
The Biggest Ponzi Schemes in Modern History
Some things simply sound too good to be true, but when money is involved, our judgement can become clouded.
This is often the case with Ponzi schemes, a type of financial fraud that lures investors by promising abnormally high returns. Money brought in by new members is used to pay the scheme’s founders, as well as its earlier investors.
The scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, an Italian who became infamous in the 1920s for claiming he could double his clients’ money within 90 days. Since then, numerous Ponzi schemes have been orchestrated around the globe.
To help you learn more about these sophisticated crimes, this infographic examines some of the biggest Ponzi schemes in modern history.
Ponzi Schemes in the 20th Century
The 1990s saw a number of large Ponzi schemes worth upwards of $500 million.
|Country||Date Ended||Name of Scheme and Founder||Value (USD)|
|Belgium||1991||Moneytron, Jean-Pierre Van Rossem||$860M|
|Romania||1994||Caritas, Ioan Stoica||$1B - $5B|
|Russia||1994||MMM, Sergei Mavrodi||$10B|
|U.S.||1997||Great Ministries International, Geral Payne||$500M|
In many cases, these schemes thrived by taking advantage of the unsuspecting public who often lacked any knowledge of investing. Caritas, for example, was a Ponzi scheme based in Romania that marketed itself as a “self-help game” for the poor.
The scheme was initially very successful, tricking millions of people into making deposits by offering the chance to earn an 800% return after three months. This was not sustainable, and Caritas was eventually unable to distribute further winnings.
Caritas operated for only two years, but its “success” was undeniable. In 1993, it was estimated that a third of the country’s money was circulating through the scheme.
Ponzi Schemes in the 21st Century
The American public has fallen victim to numerous multi-billion dollar Ponzi schemes since the beginning of the 21st century.
|Country||Date Ended||Name of Scheme and Founder||Value (USD)|
|U.S.||2003||Mutual Benefits Company, Joel Steinger||$1B|
|U.S.||2003||Petters Group Worldwide, Tom Petters||$4B|
|U.S.||2008||Madoff Investment Scandal, Bernie Madoff||$65B|
|U.S.||2012||Stanford Financial Group, Allen Stanford||$7B|
Many of these schemes have made major headlines, but much less is said about the thousands of everyday Americans that were left in financial ruin.
For victims of the Madoff Investment Scandal, receiving any form of compensation has been a drawn-out process. In 2018, 10 years after the scheme was uncovered, a court-appointed trustee managed to recover $13 billion by liquidating Madoff’s firm and personal assets.
As NPR reported, investors may recover up to 60 to 70 percent of their initial investment only. For victims who had to delay retirement or drastically alter their lifestyles, this compensation likely provides little solace.
Do the Crime, Pay the Time
Running a Ponzi scheme is likely to land you in jail for a long time, at least in the U.S.
In 2009, for example, 71-year-old Bernie Madoff pled guilty to 11 federal felonies and was sentenced to 150 years in prison. That’s 135 years longer than the average U.S. murder conviction.
Outside of the U.S., it’s a much different story. Weaker regulation and enforcement, particularly in developing countries, means a number of schemes are ongoing today.
Sergei Mavrodi, known for running the Russian Ponzi scheme MMM, started a new organization named MMM Global after being released from prison in 2011. Although he died in March 2018, his self-described “social financial network” has established a base in several Southeast Asian and African countries.
If you or someone you know is worried about falling victim to a Ponzi scheme, this checklist from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may be a useful resource.
The Top 100 Companies of the World: The U.S. vs Everyone Else
Where are the top 100 companies of the world located? We highlight the U.S. share of the top companies by market capitalization .
The Top 100 Companies of the World: U.S. vs Everyone
When it comes to breaking down the top 100 companies of the world, the United States still commands the largest slice of the pie.
Throughout the 20th century and before globalization reached its current peaks, American companies made the country an economic powerhouse and the source of a majority of global market value.
But even as countries like China have made headway with multi-billion dollar companies of their own, and the market’s most important sectors have shifted, the U.S. has managed to stay on top.
How do the top 100 companies of the world stack up? This visualization pulls from PwC’s annual ranking of the world’s largest companies, using market capitalization data from May 2021.
Where are the World’s Largest Companies Located?
The world’s top 100 companies account for a massive $31.7 trillion in market cap, but that wealth is not distributed evenly.
Between companies, there’s a wide range of market caps. For example, the difference between the world’s largest company (Apple) and the 100th largest (Anheuser-Busch) is $1.9 trillion.
And between countries, that divide becomes even more stark. Of the 16 countries with companies making the top 100 ranking, the U.S. accounts for 65% of the total market cap value.
|Location||# of Companies||Market Capitalization (May 2021)|
|🇺🇸 United States||59||$20.55T|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||1||$1.92T|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||1||$0.43T|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||3||$0.43T|
Compared to the U.S., other once-prominent markets like Japan, France, and the UK have seen their share of the world’s top 100 companies falter over the years. In fact, all of Europe accounts for just $3.46 trillion or 11% of the total market cap value of the list.
A major reason for the U.S. dominance in market values is a shift in important industries and contributors. Of the world’s top 100 companies, 52% were based in either technology or consumer discretionary, and the current largest players like Apple, Alphabet, Tesla, and Walmart are all American-based.
The Top 100 Companies of the World: Competition From China
The biggest and most impressive competitor to the U.S. is China.
With 14 companies of its own in the world’s top 100, China accounted for $4.19 trillion or 13% of the top 100’s total market cap value. That includes two of the top 10 firms by market cap, Tencent and Alibaba.
|Company||Country||Sector||Market Cap (May 2021)|
|#2||Saudi Aramco||Saudi Arabia||Energy||$1,920B|
|#4||Amazon||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$1,558B|
|#8||Tesla||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$641B|
|#10||Berkshire Hathway||United States||Financials||$588B|
|#13||JPMorgan Chase||United States||Financials||$465B|
|#14||Johnson & Johnson||United States||Health Care||$433B|
|#15||Samsung Electronics||South Korea||Technology||$431B|
|#16||Kweichow Moutai||China||Consumer Staples||$385B|
|#17||Walmart||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$383B|
|#19||UnitedHealth Group||United States||Health Care||$352B|
|#20||LVMH Moët Hennessy||France||Consumer Discretionary||$337B|
|#21||Walt Disney Co||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$335B|
|#22||Bank of America||United States||Financials||$334B|
|#23||Procter & Gamble||United States||Consumer Staples||$333B|
|#25||Home Depot||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$329B|
|#26||Nestle SA||Switzerland||Consumer Staples||$322B|
|#28||Paypal Holdings||United States||Industrials||$284B|
|#29||Roche Holdings||Switzerland||Health Care||$283B|
|#31||ASML Holding NV||Netherlands||Technology||$255B|
|#32||Toyota Motor||Japan||Consumer Discretionary||$254B|
|#34||Verizon Communications||United States||Telecommunication||$241B|
|#35||Exxon Mobil||United States||Energy||$236B|
|#36||Netflix||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$231B|
|#38||Coca-Cola Co||United States||Consumer Staples||$227B|
|#41||Cisco Systems||United States||Telecommunication||$218B|
|#44||China Construction Bank||China||Financials||$213B|
|#45||Abbott Labs||United States||Health Care||$212B|
|#46||Novartis AG||Switzerland||Health Care||$212B|
|#47||Nike||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$209B|
|#49||Pfizer||United States||Health Care||$202B|
|#50||Chevron||United States||Oil & Gas||$202B|
|#51||China Merchants Bank||China||Financials||$196B|
|#52||PepsiCo||United States||Consumer Staples||$195B|
|#54||Merck & Co||United States||Health Care||$195B|
|#55||AbbVie||United States||Health Care||$191B|
|#59||Thermo Fisher Scientific||United States||Health Care||$180B|
|#60||Eli Lilly & Co||United States||Health Care||$179B|
|#61||Agricultural Bank of China||China||Financials||$178B|
|#64||Texas Instruments||United States||Technology||$174B|
|#65||McDonalds||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$167B|
|#66||Volkswagen AG||Germany||Consumer Discretionary||$165B|
|#67||BHP Group||Australia||Basic Materials||$163B|
|#68||Wells Fargo & Co||United States||Financials||$162B|
|#69||Tata Consultancy Services||India||Technology||$161B|
|#70||Danaher||United States||Health Care||$160B|
|#71||Novo Nordisk||Denmark||Health Care||$160B|
|#73||Wuliangye Yibin||China||Consumer Staples||$159B|
|#74||Costco Wholesale||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$156B|
|#75||T-Mobile US||United States||Telecommunication||$156B|
|#81||Royal Dutch Shell||Netherlands||Oil & Gas||$148B|
|#82||NextEra Energy||United States||Utilities||$148B|
|#83||United Parcel Service||United States||Industrials||$148B|
|#84||Union PAC||United States||Industrials||$148B|
|#85||Unilever||United Kingdom||Consumer Staples||$147B|
|#87||Linde||United Kingdom||Basic Materials||$146B|
|#88||Amgen||United States||Health Care||$144B|
|#89||Bristol Myers Squibb||United States||Health Care||$141B|
|#91||Bank of China||China||Financials||$139B|
|#92||Philip Morris||United States||Consumer Staples||$138B|
|#93||Lowe's Companies||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$136B|
|#94||Charter Communications||United States||Telecommunication||$135B|
|#96||Sony Group||Japan||Consumer Discretionary||$132B|
|#97||Astrazeneca||United Kingdom||Health Care||$131B|
|#98||Royal Bank of Canada||Canada||Financials||$131B|
|#99||Starbucks||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$129B|
Impressively, China’s rise in market value isn’t limited to well-known tech and consumer companies. The country’s second biggest contributing industry to the top 100 firms was finance, once also the most valuable sector in the U.S. (currently 4th behind tech, consumer discretionary, and health care).
Other notable countries on the list include Saudi Arabia and its state-owned oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco, which is the third largest company in the world. Despite only having one company in the top 100, Saudi Arabia had the third-largest share of the top 100’s total market cap value.
As Europe continues to lose ground year-over-year and the rest of Asia struggles to keep up, the top 100 companies might become increasingly concentrated in just the U.S. and China. The question is, will the imbalance of global market value start to even out, or become even bigger?
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