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.
Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America
Compared to January 2020, 34% of small businesses are currently closed. This map looks at the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas.
Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America
In the business news cycle, headlines are often dominated by large corporations, macroeconomic news, or government action.
While mom and pop might not always be in focus, collectively small businesses are a powerful and influential piece of the economy. In fact, 99.9% of all businesses in the U.S. qualify as small businesses, collectively employing almost half (47.3%) of the nation’s private workforce.
Unfortunately, they’ve also been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy amid the pandemic. From the CARES Act to the new budget proposal, billions of dollars have been allocated towards helping small businesses to get back on their feet.
Small Business Recovery in 50 Metro Areas
During the pandemic, many small businesses have either swiftly pivoted to survive, or struggled to stay afloat. This map pulls data from Opportunity Insights to examine the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas across America.
So, has the situation improved since the last time we examined this data? The short answer is no—on a national scale, 34% of small businesses are closed compared to January 2020.
San Francisco is one of the most affected metro areas, with a 48% closure rate of small businesses. New York City has spiralled the most since the end of September 2020.
|U.S. Metro Area||% Change in # of|
Small Businesses Open
(As of Sep 25, 2020)
|% Change in # of|
Small Businesses Open
(As of Apr 23, 2021)
|7-month change (p.p.)|
|New York City||-21%||-42%||-21|
|Salt Lake City||-18%||-23%||-5|
Data as of Apr 23, 2021 and indexed to Jan 4-31, 2020.
On the flip side, Honolulu has seen the most improvement. As travel and tourism numbers into Hawaii have steadily risen up with lifted nationwide restrictions, there has been a 16 p.p. increase in open businesses compared to September 2020.
Road to a K-Shaped Recovery
As of April 25, 2021, nearly 42% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, even with this rapid vaccine rollout, various segments of the economy aren’t recovering at the same pace.
Take for instance the stark difference between professional services and the leisure and hospitality sector. Though small business revenues in both segments have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, the latter has much more catching up to do:
This uneven phenomena is known as a K-shaped recovery, where some industries see more improvement compared to others that stagnate in the aftermath of a recession.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit Endures
Despite these continued hardships, it appears that many Americans have not been deterred from starting their own businesses.
Many small businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN) which makes EIN applications a good proxy for business formation activity. Despite an initial dip in the early months of the pandemic, there has been a dramatic spike in EIN business applications.
Even in the face of a global pandemic, the perseverance of such metrics prove that the innovative American spirit is unwavering, and spells better days to come for small business recovery.
Pandemic Recovery: Have BEACH Stocks Bounced Back?
BEACH stocks—bookings, entertainment, airlines, cruises, and hotels—were pulverized at the beginning of the pandemic. Here’s how they’ve bounced back.
Pandemic Recovery: Have BEACH Stocks Bounced Back?
The travel and entertainment industries have had a volatile ride over the last year.
During the initial stages of the pandemic, when panic and uncertainty ran rife, BEACH stocks–booking, entertainment, airlines, cruises, and hotels—were left scrambling. Collectively, $332 billion in market cap washed away.
Now, it appears the tide might be turning for these companies, buoyed by vaccine breakthroughs and glimmers of hope for a return to normalcy.
This infographic looks at the growth in market cap value across BEACH stocks one year from when the WHO officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Washing Back to Shore?
BEACH stocks have gained a collective $376 billion in market cap in the year since the pandemic was declared, with about half the companies trading at their respective all-time highs.
In fact, about 70% of BEACH stocks have actually outperformed the S&P 500, which returned 43.7% during the same period.
|Company||Ticker||Category||Market Cap: 03/11/20 ($B)||Market Cap: 03/11/21 ($B)||Change|
|Alaska Air Group||ALK||Airlines||5.7||8.1||42%|
|Delta Air Lines||DAL||Airlines||29.1||30.9||6%|
|Caesars Entertainment||CZR||Casino & Hotel||2.2||20.8||824%|
|Norwegian Cruise Lines||NCLH||Cruise & Casino||4.3||10.9||151%|
|Royal Caribbean Cruises||RCL||Cruise & Casino||10.8||22.4||108%|
|Carnival||CCL||Cruise & Casino||16.4||31.8||93%|
|Penn National Gaming||PENN||Entertainment & Live Events||2.6||20.4||661%|
|Six Flags||SIX||Entertainment & Live Events||1.7||4.1||142%|
|Live Nation||LYV||Entertainment & Live Events||10.8||19.3||79%|
|The Walt Disney Co||DIS||Entertainment & Live Events||201.2||357.1||77%|
|Cedar Fair||FUN||Entertainment & Live Events||1.8||2.8||57%|
|Choice Hotels International||CHH||Hotels||4.5||5.9||30%|
|Marriott Vacations Worldwide||VAC||Hotels & Resorts||3.8||7.7||103%|
|Vail Resorts||MTN||Hotels & Resorts||7.1||13.4||88%|
|Park Hotels & Resorts||PK||Hotels & Resorts||3.4||5.3||58%|
|Wyndham Hotels & Resorts||WH||Hotels & Resorts||4.2||6.4||51%|
|MGM Resorts International||MGM||Resorts & Casino||10.2||19.3||89%|
|Wynn Resorts||WYNN||Resorts & Casino||9.7||15.9||64%|
|Las Vegas Sands||LVS||Resorts & Casino||40.7||48.2||18%|
BEACH Stocks Leaders and Laggards
When dissecting this basket of stocks by industry, it’s clear that much of the recovery story is lopsided. One reason for this, despite the pandemic, is that there are more granular, idiosyncratic trends occurring within these sectors.
Let’s look at what’s propelling the leaders, and dragging down the laggards:
Leading: Online Betting
There’s reason to be bullish on gambling stocks. Since late 2018, some 20 states have legalized sports betting, with more expecting to follow. Relative to other areas, the pandemic has been kind to gambling stocks. Many of those with an online presence have witnessed a spike in traffic, as more people continue to flock towards online betting.
Within the BEACH stocks basket, Penn National Gaming and Caesars Entertainment are clear outliers, having grown an epic 661% and 823% respectively. In addition, the broader industry (measured by the BETZ ETF) has nearly doubled the performance of the S&P 500 since its inception.
The return to normalcy will be much more delayed for airlines. Global RPKs, an industry metric, are not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
Actions of insiders also seem to match this negative sentiment. Warren Buffett, once a staunch supporter of airlines, decided to call it quits during the pandemic—dumping his entire position.
U.S. airline executives have collectively been selling their stakes much more aggressively than in the last few years. To add insult to injury, there’s significant shorting of airline stocks as well. At a short interest of 11.6%, American Airlines is most heavily shorted BEACH stock.
In a year where social interactions and gatherings have largely disappeared, so too has much of the business activity for hotels. For instance, Hilton sales suffered a 58% decline year-over-year.
But even without the pandemic, the hotel industry had their work cut out for them, through a growing and formidable competitor in Airbnb. Airbnb can scale its network beyond what any hotel can. This is evident in its room count, which is greater than the largest hotels combined.
More Bumps On The Road Ahead?
The investing landscape today looks to be disconnected from reality, in part because of the forward-looking nature of markets. Even though things are dire today, there’s a belief that light exists at the end of the tunnel.
But the path to recovery isn’t quite so linear. When the dust settles, it’ll become more apparent which industries will “return to normal” and which have set out permanently on a new trajectory.
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