Chart: The Most Valuable Companies of All-Time
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Before speculative bubbles could form around Dotcom companies (late-1990s) or housing prices (mid-2000s), some of the first financial bubbles formed from the prospect of trading with faraway lands.
Looking back, it’s pretty easy to see why.
Companies like the Dutch East India Company (known in Dutch as the VOC, or Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) were granted monopolies on trade, and they engaged in daring voyages to mysterious and foreign places. They could acquire exotic goods, establish colonies, create military forces, and even initiate wars or conflicts around the world.
Of course, the very nature of these risky ventures made getting any accurate indication of intrinsic value nearly impossible, which meant there were no real benchmarks for what companies like this should be worth.
The Dutch East India Company was established as a charter company in 1602, when it was granted a 21-year monopoly by the Dutch government for the spice trade in Asia. The company would eventually send over one million voyagers to Asia, which is more than the rest of Europe combined.
However, despite its 200-year run as Europe’s foremost trading juggernaut – the speculative peak of the company’s prospects coincided with Tulip Mania in Holland in 1637.
Widely considered the world’s first financial bubble, the history of Tulip Mania is a fantastic story in itself. During this frothy time, the Dutch East India Company was worth 78 million Dutch guilders, which translates to a whopping $7.9 trillion in modern dollars.
This is according to sources such as Alex Planes from The Motley Fool, who has conducted extensive research on the history of very large companies in history.
The peak value of the Dutch East India Company was so high, that it puts modern economies to shame.
In fact, at its height, the Dutch East India Company was worth roughly the same amount as the GDPs of modern-day Japan ($4.8T) and Germany ($3.4T) added together.
Even further, in today’s chart, we added the market caps of 20 of the world’s largest companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, ExxonMobil, Berkshire Hathaway, Tencent, and Wells Fargo. All of them combined gets us to $7.9 trillion.
At the same time, the world’s most valuable company (Apple) only makes it to 11% of the peak value of the Dutch East India Company by itself.
Despite the speculation that fueled the run-up of Dutch East India Company shares, the company was still successful in real terms. At one point, it even had 70,000 employees – a massive accomplishment for a company born over 400 years ago.
The same thing can’t be said for the other two most valuable companies in history – both of which were the subject of simultaneous bubbles occurring in France and Britain that popped in 1720.
In France, the wealth of Louisiana was exaggerated in a marketing scheme for the newly formed Mississippi Company, and its value temporarily soared to the equivalent of $6.5 trillion today. Meanwhile, a joint-stock company in Britain, known as the South Sea Company, was granted a monopoly to trade with South America. It was eventually worth $4.3 trillion in modern currency.
Interestingly, both would barely engage in any actual trade with the Americas.
The other historic heavyweights included in our chart?
- Saudi Aramco, at $4.1 trillion, based on calculations by University of Texas finance professor Sheridan Titman in 2010, and adjusted for inflation.
- PetroChina surpassed $1 trillion in market cap in 2007. Adjusted for inflation that’s $1.4 trillion today.
- Standard Oil, before its famous breakup due to monopolistic reasons, was worth at least $1 trillion. Adjusted for inflation it would likely be more, but we kept this conservative.
- Microsoft reached its peak valuation in 1999, at the top of the Dotcom Bubble. Today, that would be equal to $912 billion.
The Geography of the World’s 50 Top Billionaires
Where do the world’s top billionaires live, and how has this distribution changed over time? We take a look at the top 50 billionaires .
The Geography of the World’s 50 Top Billionaires
The business world has undergone considerable change in the last two decades.
While some fortunes are always reliably passed on to their respective heirs and heiresses, there are also entirely new industries that rise out of nowhere to shape the landscape of global wealth.
As the wealth landscape shifts, so does its geographical distribution.
The 2019 List of Billionaires
Today’s chart uses data from the most recent edition of the Forbes Billionaires List to map the distribution of the world’s richest people, and then compare that to data from 20 years prior.
We’ll start here by looking at the most recent data from 2019:
|Rank||Name||Net Worth ($B)||Citizenship||Industry|
|#1||Jeff Bezos||131||🇺🇸 USA||Tech, eCommerce|
|#2||Bill Gates||96.5||🇺🇸 USA||Tech|
|#3||Warren Buffett||82.5||🇺🇸 USA||Investments|
|#4||Bernard Arnault||76||🇫🇷 France||Luxury Goods, Cosmetics|
|#5||Carlos Slim Helu||64||🇲🇽 Mexico||Telecommunications|
|#6||Amancio Ortega||62.7||🇪🇸 Spain||Apparel|
|#7||Larry Ellison||62.5||🇺🇸 USA||Tech|
|#8||Mark Zuckerberg||62.3||🇺🇸 USA||Tech|
|#9||Michael Bloomberg||55.5||🇺🇸 USA||Media|
|#10||Larry Page||50.8||🇺🇸 USA||Tech|
|#11||Charles Koch||50.5||🇺🇸 USA||Diversified|
|#12||David Koch||50.5||🇺🇸 USA||Diversified|
|#13||Mukesh Ambani||50||🇮🇳 India||Oil & Gas, Telecoms|
|#14||Sergey Brin||49.8||🇺🇸 USA||Tech|
|#15||Francoise Bettencourt||49.3||🇫🇷 France||Cosmetics|
|#16||Jim Walton||44.6||🇺🇸 USA||Retail|
|#17||Alice Walton||44.4||🇺🇸 USA||Retail, Art|
|#18||Rob Walton||44.3||🇺🇸 USA||Retail|
|#19||Steve Ballmer||41.2||🇺🇸 USA||Tech|
|#20||Ma Huateng (Pony)||38.8||🇨🇳 China||Tech|
|#21||Jack Ma||37.3||🇨🇳 China||Tech, eCommerce|
|#22||Hui Ka Yan||36.2||🇨🇳 China||Real Estate|
|#23||Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr.||36.1||🇩🇪 Germany||Retail|
|#24||Sheldon Adelson||35.1||🇺🇸 USA||Casinos|
|#25||Michael Dell||34.3||🇺🇸 USA||Tech|
|#26||Phil Knight||33.4||🇺🇸 USA||Apparel|
|#27||David Thomson||32.5||🇨🇦 Canada||Media|
|#28||Li Ka-shing||31.7||🇨🇳 China||Developer|
|#29||Lee Shau Kee||30.1||🇨🇳 China||Developer|
|#30||François Pinault||29.7||🇫🇷 France||Luxury Goods|
|#31||Joseph Safra||25.2||🇧🇷 Brazil||Diversified|
|#32||Leonid Mikhelson||24||🇷🇺 Russia||Oil & Gas|
|#33||Jacqueline Mars||23.4||🇺🇸 USA||Food|
|#34||John Mars||23.9||🇺🇸 USA||Food|
|#35||Jorge Paulo Lemann||22.8||🇧🇷 Brazil||Diversified|
|#36||Azim Premji||22.6||🇮🇳 India||Tech|
|#37||Dieter Schwarz||22.6||🇩🇪 Germany||Retail|
|#38||Wang Jianlin||22.6||🇨🇳 China||Real Estate|
|#39||Giovanni Ferrero||22.4||🇮🇹 Italy||Food|
|#40||Elon Musk||22.4||🇺🇸 USA||Automotive, Tech|
|#41||Tadashi Yanai||22.2||🇯🇵 Japan||Apparel|
|#42||Yang Huiyan||22.1||🇨🇳 China||Real Estate|
|#43||Masayoshi Son||21.6||🇯🇵 Japan||Banking, Investments|
|#44||Jim Simons||21.5||🇺🇸 USA||Investments|
|#45||Vladimir Lisin||21.3||🇷🇺 Russia||Steel, Transportation|
|#46||Susanne Klatten||21||🇩🇪 Germany||Automotive, Pharma|
|#47||Vagit Alekperov||20.7||🇷🇺 Russia||Oil & Gas|
|#48||Alexey Mordashov||20.5||🇷🇺 Russia||Steel, Investments|
|#49||Gennady Timchenko||20.1||🇷🇺 Russia||Oil & Gas|
|#50||Leonardo Del Vecchio||19.8||🇮🇹 Italy||Eyewear|
The most recent billionaires list features Jeff Bezos at the top with $131 billion, although it’s likely his recent divorce announcement will provide an upcoming shakeup to the Bezos Empire.
Bezos is just one of 21 Americans that find themselves in the top 50 list, which means that 42% of the world’s top billionaires hail from the United States.
Billionaire Geography Over Time
If we compare the top 50 list to that from 1999, it’s interesting to see what has changed over time in terms of geographical distribution.
Here’s the distribution of top countries on both lists, compared:
|Citizenship||Top Billionaires (1999)||Top Billionaires (2019)||Change|
|🇺🇸 United States||18||21||+3|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||2||0||-2|
In the last 20 years, Russia and China have stockpiled the most top billionaires, adding five and four to the top 50 list respectively. The United States added three, going from 18 to 21 billionaires over the timeframe.
On the other end of the spectrum, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland have lost the most billionaires from the top 50 ranking.
The Economies Adding the Most to Global Growth in 2019
Global economics is effectively a numbers game – here are the countries and regions projected to contribute the most to global growth in 2019.
The Economies Adding the Most to Global Growth in 2019
Global economics is effectively a numbers game.
As long as the data adds up to economic expansion on a worldwide level, it’s easy to keep the status quo rolling. Companies can shift resources to the growing segments, and investors can put capital where it can go to work.
At the end of the day, growth cures everything – it’s only when it dries up that things get hairy.
Breaking Down Global Growth in 2019
Today’s chart uses data from Standard Chartered and the IMF to break down where economic growth is happening in 2019 using purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. Further, it also compares the share of the global GDP pie taken by key countries and regions over time.
Let’s start by looking at where global growth is forecasted to occur in 2019:
|Country or Region||Share of Global GDP Growth (PPP) in 2019F|
|Other Asia (Excl. China/Japan)||29%|
|Middle East & North Africa||4%|
|Latin America & Caribbean||3%|
|Rest of World||8%|
The data here mimics some of the previous estimates we’ve seen from Standard Chartered, such as this chart which projects the largest economies in 2030.
Asia as a whole will account for 63% of all global GDP growth (PPP) this year, with the lion’s share going to China. Countries like India and Indonesia will contribute to the “Other Asia” share, and Japan will only contribute 1% to the global growth total.
In terms of developed economies, the U.S. will lead the pack (11%) in contributing to global growth. Europe will add 8% between its various sub-regions, and Canada will add 1%.
Share of Global Economy Over Time
Based on the above projections, we were interested in taking a look at how each region or country’s share of global GDP (PPP) has changed over recent decades.
This time, we used IMF projections from its data mapper tool to loosely approximate the regions above, though there are some minor differences in how the data is organized.
|Country or Region||Share of GDP (PPP, 1980)||Share of GDP (PPP, 2019F)||Change|
|Developing Asia||8.9%||34.1%||+25.2 pp|
|European Union||29.9%||16.0%||-13.9 pp|
|United States||21.6%||15.0%||-6.6 pp|
|Latin America & Caribbean||12.2%||7.4%||-4.8 pp|
|Middle East & North Africa||8.6%||6.5%||-2.1 pp|
|Sub-Saharan Africa||2.4%||3.0%||+0.6 pp|
In the past 40 years or so, Developing Asia has increased its share of the global economy (in PPP terms) from 8.9% to an estimated 34.1% today. This dominant region includes China, India, and other fast-growing economies.
The European Union and the United States combined for 51.5% of global productivity in 1980, but they now account for 31% of the total economic mix. Similarly, the Latin America and MENA regions are seeing similar decreases in their share of the economic pie.
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