Economic Growth

How do the world's biggest companies compare to the biggest economies?

A worker arrives at his office in the Canary Wharf business district in London February 26, 2014. London's financial services sector created 25 percent more jobs in February than a year ago, new data has shown, indicating the industry may be recovering from the restructuring and redundancies prompted by the financial crisis. After a strong January, the City hiring market showed no signs of slowing down last month, with 3,220 new jobs created, compared with 2,575 added in February 2013, according to financial services recruiter Astbury Marsden. The data suggests London's banks and financial services companies are returning to growth after slashing thousands of jobs in the face of a lengthy recession and a series of industry scandals that followed the financial crisis. Picture taken February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Image: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Economic Progress

Ever wondered how the world’s companies stack up compared to countries? A new ranking looks at government revenue, and compares it to some of the world's most profitable businesses.

The list from Global Justice Now – an NGO – ranks the world’s top 100 global economic entities. Sixty-nine of the 100 are corporations, leaving room for just 31 countries on the list.

Corporations versus countries

The USA tops the list, which takes government revenue from the CIA World Factbook. 2015 estimates place US government revenue at $3.3 trillion.

China takes second place, with Germany in third. The top 10 is dominated by countries, with only Walmart breaking the monopoly. The US-based retail giant has revenues of over $480 billion according to the Fortune 500.

 The world's biggest economic entities

By taking 10th place, Walmart beats the government revenue of major global economies including Australia, South Korea and India.

From Walmart down though, it’s basically all about businesses, with only 22 more countries featuring.

The business monopoly

The following chart shows the top 10 biggest corporations, and their place in the overall rankings.

State Grid is the world’s second largest business – by revenue – and 14th overall. It starts a run of three Chinese businesses, with China National Petroleum (15th) and Sinopec Group (16th) following. All three have greater revenue than the South Korean government, with annual revenues of around $300bn.

Royal Dutch Shell follows (18th overall), coming in ahead of Mexico and Sweden, while Exxon Mobil, Volkswagen and Toyota Motor are all bigger than India’s state revenue.

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Apple and BP complete the top 10, with revenues that exceed the government revenues of Switzerland, Norway and Russia.

It’s important to note the limitations of the comparison though. Government revenues generally represent a lower figure than GDP. For example, Russia’s government revenues of $216 billion pale in comparison to their GDP of more than $1.3 trillion.

A globalized world

What is clear from the ranking is the global spread of economic power. Brazil, South Korea and India all feature in the top 20 countries.

The 10 biggest businesses also have a distinctly global look. From China, to Holland and Japan, it’s far from a US monopoly.

The Fortune 2016 Global 500 companies

China now has more than 100 businesses in the Fortune Global 500, while State Grid rose from 7th to 2nd in the latest ranking.

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