Geographies in Depth

The new Fortune Global 500 is out. It shows a shift in the world's business landscape

Vehicles are seen on a main avenue during the evening rush hour at sunset in Beijing September 3, 2014.

Changing fortunes ... the annual list reveals the extraordinary rise of China’s biggest companies Image: REUTERS/Jason Lee

Keith Breene
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The growth of Chinese business is the most striking feature of the 2016 Fortune Global 500 list, with more than 100 of the world’s biggest companies now headquartered in China.

Only the United States has more companies on the list, which ranks companies on the size of their revenue.

The changing map

While Walmart maintains its place at the top of the list, China power giant State Grid jumps from seventh place last year to the number two spot this year. It is followed by oil giants China National Petroleum Corp and Sinopec Group, in third and fourth place, respectively. Europe’s Royal Dutch Shell completes the top five.

That China has three of the top five places represents a stunning success for the country.

 The fortune 2016 global 500 companies
Image: Fortune, 2016

A map showing where the top 500 global companies are based shows the US, Europe and China as the three dominant seats of power.

Fortune 500 global companies

 Fortune 500 global companies
Image: Fortune

Among the 13 Chinese companies that make their debut on the list in 2016 are three home builders: China Vanke Co, Dalian Wanda Group and Evergrande Real Estate Group, which all benefited from the property-market recovery in China last year after the government loosened restrictions on home purchases.

Ranked at 366th, China’s second-largest online retailer, Inc, also entered the list for the first time.

Out in front

Walmart has dominated the Fortune Global 500 list for two decades. The US retail giant employs 2.3 million people and has an annual revenue of nearly half a trillion dollars, generating $14.9 billion in profit.

Walmart ranking since 1995

 Walmart ranking since 1995
Image: Fortune

A monopoly on power

China’s State Grid is the world’s largest utility company and, with a widespread monopoly, is likely to stay that way. State Grid’s spending on solar farms, wind and alternative energy sources has counted in the tens of billions dollars lately, driven by China’s unprecedented push into alternatives.

Back in 1995 State Grid did not feature at all in the Fortune Global 500, but since 2004 it has been climbing its way up the top 50 companies.

State Grid ranking since 1995

 State Grid ranking since 1995
Image: Fortune

Relentless rise

Apple is another company whose fortunes have taken a dramatic turn for the better. It appeared in the Fortune Global 500 briefly in the late 1990s before taking almost a decade off. Since 2005 it has experienced an extraordinarily resilient climb to number nine.

Apple ranking since 1995

Apple ranking since 1995
Image: Fortune

The drag factors

Forbes says the total revenue from the top 500 global companies fell 11.5% to $27.6 trillion from last year as the US dollar surged, China's economy slowed and the global oil price collapsed dramatically.

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Geographies in DepthEconomic Growth
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