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The Movers and Shakers of the Top 500 Global Companies List



The Fortune Global 500 List is an annual ranking of the largest 500 companies by revenue worldwide. The publisher of the rankings, Fortune magazine, has recently put together an excellent interactive chart that shows how the list has changed over the last 20 years.

Here’s the companies on the 2016 edition mapped based on the location of their headquarters. The size of each circle is equivalent to the most recent revenue number:

Fortune Global 500 companies by revenue

As you can see, companies are mostly concentrated in the United States, China, Japan, and the EU. Here’s the exact breakdown:

  • United States: 134
  • China: 103
  • Japan: 52
  • France: 29
  • Germany: 28
  • United Kingdom: 28
  • South Korea: 26
  • Switzerland: 15
  • Netherlands: 12
  • Canada: 11
  • Other: 75

The biggest company by revenue? It’s Walmart, and it has a circle that takes up the whole continental United States on the map. That circle represents its annual revenues of $482 billion.

But the real question isn’t which company is the biggest – what’s much more interesting is to look at the rankings data to see what interesting stories can be told.

Movers and Shakers on the Fortune Global 500 List

How have companies on the list today performed over the last 20 years?

Companies such as Walmart or Royal Dutch Shell have been remarkably consistent blue chips:

Royal Dutch Shell

Other companies are not so consistent. They have ups and downs, and here the rankings data helps to tell their tales.

For example, you can see the “Dark Ages” of Apple in the following graph after they fired Steve Jobs. The company spent 12 years without him, and you can see that by 1997 they were almost off the Fortune Global 500 list.

Apple acquired NeXT in 1997 and Jobs would regain the title of CEO. Ten years later, the iPhone was released and the company soared back into the Top 10.


But Apple isn’t the only company that is a mover or shaker., of course, is also growing at a breakneck pace:

There are many newer entries on the list from China, and it seems that almost every one has a trajectory similar to this:

Aviation of China

What does the state-sponsored Aviation Industry Corp. of China do, exactly?

The company’s 542,236 employees build planes – lots of planes. Particularly, they seem to build fighter jets, bombers, drones, and even entire airports.

Here’s another skyrocketing Chinese company. This time it is the China Merchants Bank:

China Merchant Bank

Meanwhile, the effects of the recent commodity downturn can be seen in the trajectories of companies such as Rio Tinto:

Rio Tinto

And the chart for the Royal Bank of Scotland shows how it was affected by the 2009 Financial Crisis:

Royal Bank of Scotland

If you haven’t already, we recommend checking out the full interactive piece by Fortune.

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Ranked: The World’s 50 Top Countries by GDP, by Sector Breakdown

This graphic shows GDP by country, broken down into three main sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.



Visualized: The Three Pillars of GDP, by Country

Over the last several decades, the service sector has fueled the economic activity of the world’s largest countries. Driving this trend has been changes in consumption, the easing of trade barriers, and rapid advancements in tech.

We can see this in the gross domestic product (GDP) breakdown of each country, which gets divided into three broad sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.

The above graphic from Pranav Gavali shows GDP by country, and how each sector contributes to an economy’s output, with data from the World Bank.

Drivers of GDP, by Country

As the most important and fastest growing component of GDP, services make up almost 60% of GDP in the world’s 50 largest countries. Following this is the industrial sector which includes the production of raw goods.

Below, we show how each sector contributes to GDP by country as of 2021:

(% GDP)
(% GDP)
(% GDP)
(% GDP)
🇺🇸 U.S.77.617.91.03.6$22.9
🇨🇳 China53.539.37.20.0$16.9
🇯🇵 Japan69.928.81.00.4$5.1
🇩🇪 Germany62.926.70.99.5$4.2
🇬🇧 UK71.617.30.710.4$3.1
🇫🇷 France70.316.71.611.4$2.9
🇮🇳 India47.926.117.38.7$2.9
🇮🇹 Italy65.022.71.910.4$2.1
🇨🇦 Canada*67.724.11.76.6$2.0
🇰🇷 South Korea57.$1.8
🇧🇷 Brazil57.820.27.514.6$1.6
🇦🇺 Australia65.725.52.36.5$1.6
🇷🇺 Russia54.131.83.910.3$1.6
🇪🇸 Spain67.420.42.69.6$1.4
🇲🇽 Mexico59.$1.3
🇮🇩 Indonesia42.839.813.34.1$1.2
🇮🇷 Iran47.338.012.42.3$1.1
🇳🇱 Netherlands69.417.91.511.2$1.0
🇨🇭 Switzerland71.924.60.62.8$0.8
🇹🇷 Turkiye52.831.15.510.6$0.8
🇹🇼 Taiwan60.638.01.50.0$0.8
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia46.544.72.76.1$0.8
🇵🇱 Poland56.927.92.213.0$0.7
🇧🇪 Belgium68.819.60.710.9$0.6
🇸🇪 Sweden65.022.51.311.3$0.6
🇮🇱 Israel72.417.21.39.1$0.5
🇦🇷 Argentina52.523.67.116.8$0.5
🇦🇹 Austria62.425.81.210.5$0.5
🇳🇬 Nigeria43.831.423.41.4$0.5
🇹🇭 Thailand56.335.08.70.0$0.5
🇮🇪 Ireland55.437.81.05.8$0.5
🇭🇰 Hong Kong89.$0.4
🇩🇰 Denmark66.719.30.913.1$0.4
🇸🇬 Singapore70.324.40.05.3$0.4
🇿🇦 South Africa63.024.52.510.0$0.4
🇵🇭 Philippines61.028.910.10.0$0.4
🇪🇬 Egypt52.531.211.44.9$0.4
🇧🇩 Bangladesh51.333.311.63.7$0.4
🇳🇴 Norway51.836.31.710.2$0.4
🇻🇳 Vietnam41.237.512.68.8$0.4
🇲🇾 Malaysia51.637.89.61.1$0.4
🇦🇪 U.A.E.51.647.50.90.0$0.4
🇵🇰 Pakistan52.118.822.76.4$0.3
🇵🇹 Portugal64.719.62.213.5$0.3
🇫🇮 Finland60.324.12.313.4$0.3
🇨🇴 Colombia58.$0.3
🇷🇴 Romania59.$0.3
🇨🇿 Czechia58.830.31.89.1$0.3
🇨🇱 Chile54.431.33.610.6$0.3
🇳🇿 New

Industrial sector includes construction. Agriculture sector includes forestry and fishing. *Data as of 2019.

In the U.S., services make up nearly 78% of GDP. Apart from Hong Kong, it comprises the highest share of GDP across the world’s largest economies. Roughly 80% of American jobs in the private sector are in services, spanning from healthcare and entertainment to finance and logistics.

Like America, a growing share of China’s GDP is from services, contributing to almost 54% of total economic output, up from 44% in 2010. This can be attributed to rising incomes and higher productivity in the sector as the economy has grown and matured, among other factors.

In a departure from the top 10 biggest countries globally, agriculture continues to drive a large portion of India’s GDP. India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat and rice, with agriculture accounting for 44% of the country’s employment.

While the services sector has grown in India, it makes up a greater share in other emerging economies such as Brazil (58%), Mexico (59%), and the Philippines (61%).

Growth Dynamics

Services-led growth has risen faster than manufacturing across many developing nations, underpinned by productivity growth.

This structural shift is seen across economies. In many countries in Africa, for instance, jobs have increasingly moved from agriculture to services and trade, where it now accounts for 42% of jobs.

These growth patterns are supported by rising incomes in developing economies, while innovation in tech is lowering barriers to enabling service growth. As the industrial sector makes up a lower share of trade and economic activity, the service sector is projected to make up 77% of global GDP by 2035.

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