Chart: What Does it Cost to Run Big Business?
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What Does it Cost to Run Big Business?

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The cost to run big business

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The Briefing

  • The cost of running a Fortune 500 company can easily exceed $100 billion annually
  • Walmart’s operating costs in 2020 were equal to 70% of U.S. military spending

What Does it Cost to Run Big Business?

How much does it cost to run one of America’s largest corporations? For household names like Apple, Costco and Walmart, well over $100 billion each year.

To get a better sense of their massive scale, this chart compiles financial data from some of the largest Fortune 500 companies, and includes U.S. military spending as an additional point of comparison.

EntityCost of Operations, USD billionsRevenues, USD billionsOperating Margin, %
U.S. Military Spending$778N/AN/A
Walmart$537$5594%
Amazon$363$3866%
Apple$170$27538%
CVS Health$255$2695%
Berkshire Hathaway$231$2466%
Alphabet$142$18322%
ExxonMobil$210$182-15%
AT&T$165$1724%
Costco Wholesale$161$1674%

To determine each company’s total cost of operations, we combined its selling, general & administrative expense (SG&A) and its cost of goods sold (COGS).

SG&A covers all of the costs associated with selling products and services, as well as managing day-to-day operations. This includes employee salaries, office rent, and marketing expenses. COGS refers to any costs directly associated with producing goods, such as raw materials and labor.

Operating Costs vs. Military Spending

At $778 billion, U.S. military spending in 2020 was the highest in the world. It dwarfs that of China, which took second place with $252 billion in spending. Beyond these two, there are no other countries that spent more than $100 billion on defense.

Massive government budgets like this may seem untouchable, but today’s chart proves otherwise. As the largest employer and retailer in America, Walmart spent $537 billion (70% of U.S military spending) to keep itself running.

Combine this with Amazon’s operating costs, and we reach $900 billion in expenses (16% more than U.S. military spending).

More Costs Doesn’t Mean More Profits

These businesses may be expensive to run, but how good are they at making money?

This can be measured by operating margin, which determines how much profit is generated from each dollar of revenue, after operating costs are deducted. We calculate it with a simple formula: operating earnings divided by revenues. Operating earnings are revenues less SG&A and COGS.

From the companies in this graphic, Apple had the greatest operating margin at 38%. Walmart was at the opposite end of the scale with a 4% margin.

This highlights the differences in business strategy. Walmart’s competitive advantage is cost leadership, meaning it strives to beat its competitors by offering the lowest prices possible. The retailer’s sheer scale (4,743 locations across the U.S.) is what enables this strategy to be effective.

Apple, on the other hand, combines strong branding and premium quality to command a high price for its products. This results in greater margins and valuations—at the time of writing, Apple is the world’s most valuable corporation with a market cap of $2.4 trillion.

Where does this data come from?

Source: SEC (2021), SIPRI
Notes: Cost of operations includes selling, general & administrative expenses (SG&A) and cost of goods sold (COGS).

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Top 20 Countries With the Most Ultra-Wealthy Individuals

Developing countries are creating wealth like never before, but the majority of the world’s ultra-wealthy people still live in the United States.

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The Briefing

  • According to Credit Suisse, there are now 218,200 people globally with assets over $50 million.
  • The majority (53%) of the world’s ultra-wealthy people live in the U.S.

Top 20 Countries With the Most Ultra-Wealthy Individuals

New data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report shows that there was an “explosion of wealth” last year.

The global population of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) grew by 46,000 to a record of 218,200. The report notes that UHNWIs benefited from a surge in the value of financial assets last year.

These increases are more than double the increases recorded in any other year this century. – Global Wealth Report 2022

The majority of ultra-wealthy individuals already reside in the United States, but 2021 saw a staggering increase of 30,470 people bring added to this exclusive ultra-wealthy category in the country.

Country/regionNet Worth of $50–$100MNet Worth of $100M–$500MNet Worth of $500M+
🇺🇸 United States103,66935,7401,726
🇨🇳 China20,01311,4111,282
🇩🇪 Germany6,0523,354318
🇨🇦 Canada3,4721,912123
🇮🇳 India3,0241,750210
🇯🇵 Japan3,3731,41188
🇫🇷 France3,2371,31485
🇦🇺 Australia2,9471,576109
🇬🇧 United Kingdom2,7871,278110
🇮🇹 Italy2,5741,253103
🇰🇷 South Korea2,4501,319117
🇷🇺 Russia2,1341,488253
🇨🇭 Switzerland2,11598792
🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR1,7901,139127
🇸🇪 Sweden1,8661,01976
🇹🇼 Taiwan1,87491293
🇪🇸 Spain1,50966651
🇧🇷 Brazil1,23874995
🇸🇬 Singapore97457073
🇳🇱 Netherlands1,10047128

China and India will likely see their ultra-wealthy populations increase dramatically, but still have a long way to go before catching up to the United States.

The biggest increases, aside from the U.S., were China (5,200), Germany (1,750), Canada (1,610), and Australia (1,350).

Decreases in UHNWI populations were more rare, but did occur in a few cases. United Kingdom (-1,130), Turkey (-330), and Hong Kong SAR (-130) saw the biggest drops.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2022

Data note: All amounts in USD

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Ranked: The Top Cyberattacks Against Businesses

Recent research provides insight into the top cyberattacks that businesses faced in 2021. See the results in this infographic.

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Ranked: The Top Cyberattacks Against Businesses

Cyberattacks hit a record high in 2021, continuing the momentum that had developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. One reason for this increase is the shift to remote work, which has opened up new vulnerabilities. Home networks are typically less secure, and the rapid rise in the use of online services means security is falling behind.

In this graphic sponsored by Global X ETFs, we’ve visualized survey results showing the 10 most successful types of cyberattacks in 2021.

The Results

These results are from a 2021 whitepaper by Osterman Research, a market research firm focused on cybersecurity. They surveyed 130 cybersecurity professionals from mid and large-sized organizations to see which types of attacks were the most prominent.

Type of AttackPercentage of respondents (%)
Business email attack was successful in tricking a lower-level employee53%
Phishing message resulted in a malware infection49%
Phishing message resulted in an account being compromised47%
Domain name was spoofed to perpetrate phishing campaigns38%
Ransomware was detected before it could be activated34%
Business email attack was successful in tricking a senior executive28%
Domain name impersonation resulted in a third-party being compromised16%
Phishing message resulted in a ransomware infection14%
A ransomware attack was successfully launched10%
A ransomware attack rendered internal IT systems non-operational10%

Source: Osterman Research (2021)

The report notes that these figures may be understated because organizations are likely to downplay their security incidents. Organizations may also lack the capability to detect all types of cyberattacks.

The Impact of Phishing Attacks

Phishing refers to an attack where the perpetrator pretends to be a trusted entity. These attacks can be carried out over email, text message (SMS), and even social media apps. The goal is often to trick the victim into opening a malicious link.

According to the whitepaper, opening malicious links can result in credential theft or ransomware infections. Credential theft is when attackers gain access to internal systems. This is incredibly dangerous, as it allows attackers to commit fraud, impersonate company officials, and steal data.

A powerful tool for preventing credential theft is multi-factor authentication (MFA). This method requires users to provide multiple verification factors to access a resource (instead of a single password).

The Threat of Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of cyberattack that involves blackmail, often for financial gain. For ransomware to be successfully planted, attackers must first gain access to a company’s networks.

Access can be gained through phishing, as discussed above, or alternate means such as compromised software updates. One such attack impacted over 57,000 Asus laptop owners in Russia after hackers created a malicious update tool on an official Asus server.

Cybercriminals have become increasingly ruthless in how ransomware attacks are executed.
– Osterman Research

Researchers have warned that ransomware attacks are becoming more dangerous and sophisticated. In addition to locking organizations out from core systems, hackers are also stealing data to increase their leverage. If a ransom is not paid, the stolen data may be published or even sold to the highest bidder.

Under Siege

The rising frequency and sophistication of cybercriminal activity is a major threat to the world.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report, ransomware attacks have increased by 435% since 2020. Furthermore, there is an estimated shortage of 3 million cybersecurity professionals worldwide.

To catch up, businesses and governments are expected to increase their spending on cybersecurity over the next several years.

The Global X Cybersecurity ETF is a passively managed solution that can be used to gain exposure to the rising adoption of cybersecurity technologies. Click the link to learn more.

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