As foreign companies follow the wave of downsizing and restructuring that seized corporate America in the early 1990s, the world’s largest companies aren’t getting much larger.
But profits are booming, according to Fortune magazine’s Global 500 list. Earnings of the listed companies soared 25.1 percent in 1996, even as revenue barely budged.
There’s also a new No. 1, albeit a familiar one: General Motors Corp. jumped to the top of the list released Tuesday, bumping Mitsubishi to No. 4.
The Global 500, which combines the biggest industrial and service companies in the world, ranks companies by revenue. Together, the 500 took in $11.435 trillion last year, led by GM and No. 2 Ford Motor.
But that’s up only 0.5 percent from 1995, the smallest increase since Fortune published its first Global 500 list in 1990. Employment also was flat, growing just 1.1 percent.
Profits, however, flourished.
Of the top 10 companies, five recorded double-digit profit growth, while only No. 6, Royal Dutch Shell Group, saw double-digit revenue growth. Royal Dutch Shell ranked first in profits for the third straight year, taking in $8.89 billion, up 28.7 percent from 1995.
The spinoff of Lucent Technologies propelled AT&T; to No. 1 in terms of profit growth. Profits jumped 4,150 percent as the company cut 10,000 jobs and prepared to shed its computer manufacturing arm, NCR Corp.
In the rest of the world, the most dramatic changes came from Asia. Japan, plagued by uneven economic growth and the plummeting yen currency, had 16 companies drop off the list.
But Russia made its first appearance, with its natural gas powerhouse RAO Gazprom at No. 146, and Hong Kong holding company Peregrine Investments was the top newcomer, debuting at No. 142.
Rounding out the top 10: No. 3 Mitsui, No. 5 Itochu, No. 7 Marubeni, No. 8 Exxon, No. 9 Sumitomo and No. 10 Toyota Motor.
The United States had the largest number of companies on the list with 162, while Japan had 126, France 42, Germany 41 and Britain 34.
The Global 500 appears in Fortune’s Aug. 4 issue.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GLOBAL 500 LEADERS Top 10 companies on Fortune Magazine’s Global 500 List, followed by country and 1996 revenues: 1. General Motors (United States), $168.37 billion 2. Ford Motor (United States), $146.99 billion 3. Mitsui (Japan) $144.94 billion 4. Mitsubishi (Japan) $140.2 billion 5. Itochu (Japan) $135.54 billion 6. Royal Dutch-Shell Group (Britain-Netherlands) $128.17 billion 7. Marubeni (Japan) $124.03 billion 8. Exxon (United States) $119.43 billion 9. Sumitomo (Japan) $119.28 billion 10. Toyota Motor (Japan) $108.7 billion
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