How to measure the power of the world’s leading corporations in our globally connected times? No small task – even for gifted MBA students. However, with the help of existing research carried out by respected peers, we’ve attempted this undertaking.
It was immediately apparent that a company’s power is intrinsically tied to key quantitative financial metrics such as turnover, net income, assets and market value. Also playing a major role is influence – in its various forms – whether political or in terms of market impact or reputation among consumers. Plus, in connection with public perception, there is the value and influence of the brand itself.
There are other measures of a corporation’s power, too. A company’s number of employees is an indicator of its size, and larger firms tend to wield greater clout. Yet another touchstone is the company’s presence on a global scale – for instance, the number of countries in which it has a foothold.
Furthermore, what of the people at the top, the CEOs – some of them MBA graduates – holding the reins? Their political connections and sway could very well have a direct link to the power of the corporations they represent.
Such factors and more were taken into account in our endeavor to profile and rank the 50 most powerful publicly listed corporations in the world – from state-owned banking and oil powerhouses to modern tech companies and financial services giants.
To select the 50 publicly listed companies for this article, we collated the rankings of several existing lists directly relevant to the subject. These were: Forbes’ 2014 “The World’s Biggest Public Companies” (“Global 2000”) and “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” lists, the Reputation Institute’s 2014 rundown of “The World’s Most Reputable Companies,” and the Financial Times’ 2013 “FT 500.”
We also considered a 2011 study, listing 147 interconnected super-companies, that was conducted by theorists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and published in New Scientist as “the capitalist network that runs the world.” Finally, we incorporated Global Finance’s 2012 list of the “25 Most Influential Companies Over the Past 25 Years.”
We were of course acutely aware of the different metrics used to rank the four existing core lists. Sales, profits, assets and market value are dealt with by Forbes’ “Global 2000;” brand value and company reputation are covered by “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” and “The World’s Most Reputable Companies” respectively; and employee number statistics are provided by the “FT 500.” In view of its four distinct but highly significant metrics, the “Global 2000” was given accordingly greater weighting as we settled upon a preliminary ranking.
To finalize our order, we also factored in where the companies were placed on the lists published by Global Finance and New Scientist. Moreover, crucially, we relied on our own separate research into the different firms under consideration. This last point was particularly important when it came to trying to gauge the corporations’ political influence – as well as that of their CEOs – plus their global pervasiveness and the impact they’ve had on their respective industries.
50. American International Group Inc.
In 2013 New York-based insurance services leader American International Group (AIG) saw to the business needs of a staggering 98 percent of the companies on the “Fortune 500.” AIG also insures 160 of those on Forbes’ 400 richest people in America list and deals with nine tenths of the companies on Fortune’s “Global 500.” In 2014, boasting $540.7 billion in assets, AIG ranked 42nd on Forbes’ “Global 2000.” AIG’s market value, meanwhile, stands at $73.2 billion, and according to the firm’s website, it has over “88 million customers around the globe.” AIG was first established in China in 1919 as the American Asiatic Underwriters, and it now operates worldwide in over 90 countries, with a global staff of 64,000. Peter Hancock will replace CEO Robert Benmosche in September 2014.
49. Sberbank of Russia
Based in Moscow and owned by the Central Bank of Russia, Sberbank of Russia is Eastern Europe’s largest bank. In 2014 the banking and financial services powerhouse was included on Forbes’ “Global 2000,” with the publication citing its market value at $51.5 billion and $554.2 billion in assets. In the same year, the company also figured on Fortune’s “Global 500,” with revenues of over $54.778 billion. Furthermore, also in 2014, The Banker magazine found Sberbank to be the number one bank in Central and Eastern Europe, where it has 277 branches and a workforce of 306,123. Sberbank’s president and CEO German Gref previously served as Russia’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade. In May 2014 he joined the board of directors of Yandex, the biggest internet company in Russia.
48. Banco Santander S.A.
Based in Madrid, Spain, international banking company Banco Santander S.A. runs operations in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Oceania and the Americas and employs 182,958 people globally. In 2014 Forbes ranked Santander 43rd on its “Global 2000” list, citing the company’s market value at $112.3 billion and its $1.537 trillion in assets. That same year, the corporation also placed on Fortune’s “Global 500,” having pulled in revenues of $98.506 billion. Furthermore, in 2013 Forbes included Santander in its breakdown of the 100 most powerful brands in the world, listing its brand value as $6 billion. The firm’s executive chairman, Emilio Botín, masterminded the formation of Santander, and the Botíns have been described by The Guardian as “Spanish banking’s most powerful family.” Botín’s daughter Ana – who has been dubbed the third most powerful woman in Britain – is the current CEO of Santander U.K. Javier Marín Romano, meanwhile, became CEO of Banco Santander S.A. in 2013.
47. Eni S.p.A.
In 2014 Italian oil and gas firm Eni S.p.A. placed 39th on Forbes’ “Global 2000” power list, with a market value of $90.9 billion and $186.6 billion in assets. Headquartered in Rome, the company states that it is “active in 85 countries” and has 82,289 employees. Eni was also included on Fortune’s 2014 “Global 500”: the company – which Fortune describes as “Italy’s largest refiner” – landed 22nd place, with a net income of over $154.108 billion. Eni’s subsidiaries include Eni Gas & Power, versalis, Saipem, Eni U.K. and Eni India. Current CEO Claudio Descalzi took over in May 2014. Moreover, a month before he was appointed, the Financial Times portrayed him as a “well-respected oil veteran who helped guide [Eni’s] transformation into one of the most successful oil and gas explorers with a series of spectacular discoveries in Africa.”
46. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
In 2011 Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. was included on a list of interlinked companies compiled by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology theorists that was referred to as a “capitalist network that runs the world” by New Scientist magazine. Based out of New York, the worldwide banking and financial services corporation has a presence in every continent with the exception of Antarctica, employing 32,900 staff globally and boasting a market value of $75.1 billion and $911.5 billion in assets. The company also found a place on Forbes’ 2013 “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” list, thanks to a brand value of $6.8 billion. That same year, CEO Lloyd Blankfein placed 27th in the magazine’s rundown of “The World’s Most Powerful People.” Plus, four years previously, Blankfein topped Vanity Fair’s breakdown of the “top 100 Information Age powers,” triumphing over Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Steve Jobs.
45. Johnson & Johnson
In 2014 New Brunswick, New Jersey-based medical equipment, pharmaceutical and consumer products multinational Johnson & Johnson ranked 16th on the Reputation Institute’s list of the world’s most reputable companies. That same year, Johnson & Johnson was also featured on Forbes’ “Global 2000” and Fortune’s “Global 500” lists, earning its inclusion thanks to revenues of $71.312 billion. The mega-corporation has in excess of 275 operating companies in over 60 countries, with a total staff of about 128,700. “At 70 years old, Johnson & Johnson isn’t slowing down,” says Fortune, adding that “the company, maker of Tylenol, Neutrogena and other household brands, reported $13.8 billion in 2013 profits, a gain of more than 27 percent year-over-year.” The firm’s CEO, Alex Gorsky, obtained his MBA at the The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
44. Ford Motor Company
In 2013 American automotive multinational the Ford Motor Company made Forbes’ “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” list, in light of a brand value of $10.6 billion and brand revenue totaling $130 billion. Then in 2014 the Dearborn, Michigan-based company notched eighth place on the “Fortune 500,” with revenues of $146.917 billion, and 47th on Forbes’ “Global 2000,” having pulled in profits of $7.2 billion. Boasting 80 plants and offices worldwide – everywhere from Argentina to Vietnam – Ford has a global staff of 181,000 and combined assets of $202 billion. New president and CEO Mark Fields – who achieved his MBA at Harvard Business School – took the reins in July 2014 and was promptly heralded as the new “most powerful man in the U.S. auto industry” by Torque News.
43. Procter & Gamble Co.
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G) is the most sizable consumer goods multinational in the world, serving some 4.8 billion people globally. In 2014 P&G placed 31st on the “Fortune 500,” with revenues of $84.167 billion, and the magazine explained that CEO Alan G. Lafley is still determined to reduce costs and refine productivity. Lafley – who achieved his MBA at Harvard Business School – has instilled new life into the company, advancing his “consumer is boss” mantra while emphasizing existing mega-brands and adding new ones to the fold. P&G describes its portfolio as “trusted, quality, leadership brands,” and in 2014 the Reputation Institute included the firm on its list of the most reputable companies in the world. With operations in around 70 countries, P&G employs a global staff of 121,000 and boasts a market value of $217.8 billion.
42. Vodafone Group plc
Based in London, Vodafone Group plc is the world’s second largest cellphone operator, behind China Mobile, and as of March 2014 its global subscribers total roughly 419 million. Operating globally – with almost 30 locations everywhere from Albania to the U.K. – Vodafone boasts a worldwide staff of 91,272. In 2014 Forbes featured the company on its “Global 2000” list, placing it 38th, with a market value of $96.9 billion and profits of $31.8 billion. Group CEO Vittorio Colao, who took over in 2008, earned his MBA at Harvard Business School. Reuters has described Colao as an “urbane Italian boss” who “believes that negotiating major deals is an art whose finest practitioners know how to wield power and resist pressure.”
41. Siemens AG
In 2013 Forbes ranked German conglomerate Siemens AG 35th in its rundown of the world’s most powerful brands, and the company also made the Financial Times’ “FT 500” within the same twelve months. The following year, the firm placed 58th on Fortune’s “Global 500” list – with revenues of $106.124 billion – while Forbes ranked it 53rd on its “Global 2000,” citing a market value of $114.2 billion. Besides which, the Reputation Institute included Siemens in the top 50 of its most reputable companies in the world list. Based in Munich and Berlin, Siemens employs a worldwide staff of 362,000 and describes itself as “a globally operating technology company with core activities in the fields of energy, healthcare, industry and infrastructure” that has a presence pretty much all over the globe.
40. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)
German automotive colossus Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) is based in its imposing and historically protected BMW Headquarters in Munich and employs 110,351 people globally. The firm also owns Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, and it produces armored vehicles through its High Security range as well as manufacturing motorcycles. Part of the German “Big Three” – a trio of high-end automakers that also includes Audi and Mercedes-Benz – BMW placed 11th in Forbes’ 2013 breakdown of the world’s most powerful brands, in view of a brand value of $27.9 billion. BMW in addition made the top 50 of Forbes’ 2014 “Global 2000,” with $101.1 billion in sales. Besides which, that same year it ranked third in the Reputation Institute’s rundown of the world’s most reputable companies. And in 2014 CEO and chairman Norbert Reithofer was featured at number 27 on Complex magazine’s “50 Most Influential People in the Auto Industry” list.
39. BHP Billiton
Based in Melbourne, Australia, and with a corporate stronghold in London, BHP Billiton is the largest mining company in the world – and it only seems to be getting bigger. In July 2014 South African newspaper Business Day reported that the firm’s “iron-ore output for the year… gained 20 percent.” That same year, BHP Billiton made Fortune’s “Global 500” – boasting as it did a turnover of $65.968 billion – as well as Forbes’ “Global 2000,” with the publication citing a market value of $182.3 billion and profits of $14.8 billion. In 2012 Global Finance placed BHP Billiton fifth on its “25 Most Influential Companies Over the Past 25 Years” list. Moreover, aside from its major presence in Australia plus the U.K., the company operates in Africa, Asia and the Americas, employing 49,496 people all told. Current BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie took over in 2013 and immediately launched a profit-chasing offensive based on “productivity and capital discipline.”
38. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG)
Tokyo-based banking and financial services mega-company Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) made Forbes’ “Global 2000” in 2014, with its assets totaling $2.4589 trillion and a market value of $77.7 billion. The powerful holding and financial wing of the Mitsubishi Group employs 85,854 people and includes London-based worldwide investment banking subsidiary Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International. In 2011 the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group was included on a list of 147 interconnected super companies – as compiled by theorists from Zurich’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – that New Scientist described as “the capitalist network that runs the world.” Elsewhere, in 2013 Reuters referred to president and CEO Nobuyuki Hirano as a “soft-spoken but tough negotiator.”
37. Nestlé S.A.
Tracing its beginnings way back to 1866, long-standing Swiss multinational Nestlé S.A. is today the biggest food and drinks firm worldwide. Nestlé’s grand headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland are close to Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps, adding to the company’s allure. In 2014 Forbes included Nestlé on its list of the world’s largest public companies, with its market value cited as $239.6 billion. Nestlé in addition ranked highly in the Reputation Institute’s 2014 rundown of “The World’s Most Reputable Companies” and made Forbes’ 2013 list of the 100 most powerful brands. The firm’s controversial chairman and former CEO, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe – who is also the current chairman of Formula 1 – is one of Switzerland’s most powerful businessmen, having turned Nestlé into a truly global powerhouse during his time in charge. The corporation boasts a total staff of around 333,000 employees.
36. Total S.A.
Total S.A.’s Tour Total headquarters cut a gleaming figure on the Paris skyline. The French oil and gas “supermajor” operates in no less than 130 countries, with a worldwide staff of 98,799. In 2014 Forbes placed Total 25th on its “Global 2000” list, thanks in no small part to the company’s $149.8 billion market value. The same year, Fortune ranked Total 11th on its “Global 500,” citing revenues of $227.882 billion and explaining that Total “raked in over $11 billion in profit during 2013” and “is reinvesting heavily for long-term growth, especially in Africa and [the] Middle East.” In 2013 Foreign Policy magazine included the company’s CEO, Christophe de Margerie, on its list of what it describes as “the 500 most powerful individuals on the planet.”
35. AXA Group
French conglomerate AXA Group consists of a network of companies specializing in areas such as investment banking, securities and insurance. Operating in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, the Paris-based corporation employs 93,146 people and describes itself as a “global leader in financial protection.” In 2014 AXA placed 33rd on Forbes’ “Global 2000” list, with more than $1 trillion in assets and a market value of $63.4 billion. Meanwhile, Fortune ranked AXA 16th on its 2014 “Global 500,” citing the firm’s turnover of $165.893 billion and describing it as “Europe’s second-largest insurer” while referencing its expansion into China and Latin America. The group’s CEO, Henri de Castries, worked for the French government in the mid 1980s. He is also chairman of the renowned Bilderberg Group, which hosts a yearly private conference that draws some of the most powerful politicians, chiefs of enterprise, bankers and thinkers in the Western world.
New York-based banking and financial services multinational Citigroup has operations in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Australia and employs a global staff of 251,000. Current CEO Michael Corbat assumed his position in 2012, and the following year The New York Times described him as a “quiet boss” who is “setting the tone for Wall Street.” In 2014 Citigroup ranked 26th on the illustrious “Fortune 500,” with a turnover of $101.967 billion. “The firm pocketed $13.2 billion in profits in 2013, up 81% from the previous year’s $7.5 billion, the magazine further explained. In 2014 the group also came in at 16th on Forbes’ “Global 2000” list, with combined assets of $1.883 trillion, while President Barack Obama also made Corbat – who is known for his political contributions – a member of his Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans.
33. Chevron Corporation
In 2014 San Ramon, California-based multinational Chevron ranked third on the “Fortune 500” U.S. power list, with revenues of $220.356 billion. Fortune describes it as America’s “second-largest oil company,” adding that Chevron “expects production will increase in 2015 and beyond” while also pointing out the firm’s advancements in Gulf of Mexico- and Australia-based endeavors. Chevron placed 18th on Forbes’ 2014 “Global 2000,” with a market value of $227.2 billion and profits of $21.4 billion. Chevron CEO and chairman John Watson earned his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He holds several high-profile board and committee member positions with such bodies as the American Petroleum Institute and the National Petroleum Council. Chevron itself has a worldwide staff of 64,600.
32. China Mobile Communications Corporation
Beijing-based China Mobile Communications Corporation is the biggest cell phone operator on the planet. In 2013 24/7 Wall St. put that fact into perspective, writing, “The most valuable brand in China belongs to China Mobile… with more than 710 million customers. Verizon Wireless, the largest in the U.S., has 98.2 million subscribers.” In 2014 the massive state-owned telecommunications entity was placed 28th on Forbes’ “Global 2000” list, with a market value of $184.6 billion and profits of $19.8 billion. That same year, Fortune ranked China Mobile 55th on its “Global 500,” citing the corporation’s net income of $107.647 billion. Chairman of China Mobile Xi Guohua recently spoke about his company’s ambitions for global expansion “by means of investment and acquisitions.”
31. Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras)
Rio de Janeiro-based Brazilian energy multinational Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras) is the biggest public firm south of the equator. Operating in 25 countries around the world – including the U.S., the U.K., China, Japan and Venezuela – Petrobras employs a global staff of 86,108. In 2014 it ranked 28th on Fortune’s “Global 500” list, with revenues of $141.462 billion, and 30th on Forbes’ “Global 2000,” with a market value of $86.8 billion. In 2014 Fortune deemed Petrobras’ CEO Maria das Graças Silva Foster the fourth most powerful business woman anywhere on the planet. Moreover, that year Foster also placed 16th on Forbes’ list of the most powerful women in the world in any category. “After 30 years at the company, she has the experience and connections (including Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff) to make running a company with assets exceeding $100 billion work,” the magazine explains.
30. Allianz SE
In 2011 New Scientist published a rundown of 147 interconnected super-companies dubbed “the capitalist network that runs the world,” with Allianz SE figuring at 28th. The Munich-based German financial services corporation has been described as “the world’s largest insurance company” and employs 147,627 people globally. In 2013 the finance giant made Forbes’ breakdown of the most powerful brands, and the following year it placed 27th on the magazine’s “Global 2000” list, with a market value of $77.2 billion. World-famous local soccer team Bayern Munich even plays its matches at the iconic Allianz Arena. CEO Michael Diekmann took over at the firm in 2003, within a year straightening out its ailing fortunes through a series of strategic decisions.
29. Verizon Communications
In 2014 New York-based telecommunications corporation Verizon Communications ranked 26th on Forbes’ annual list of “the most powerful and most valuable companies in the world.” Forbes describes Verizon as providing “converged communications, information and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network,” with the publication adding that the U.S. government is among the firm’s many clients. Verizon also placed highly on Forbes’ 2013 list of the world’s most powerful brands, with a brand value of $19.3 billion. CEO Lowell McAdam gained his MBA at the University of San Diego, and in 2013 he topped FierceWireless’ rundown of “The 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless and Wireline.”
28. BNP Paribas
In 2014 French banking multinational BNP Paribas made Forbes’ “Global 2000,” with a market value of $98.6 billion and nearly $2.5 trillion in assets. BNP Paribas is headquartered in Paris, has additional global headquarters in London, employs 184,545 people and operates in 75 countries around the world. In 2011 it was featured on a list – compiled by researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – of 147 powerful super-companies that “[run] the world.” BNP Paribas’ director and CEO, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, was described by World of CEOs as “proactive and pragmatic,” with the website also noting that the French magazine Capital portrays the man as wanting to “know everything and control everything.”
27. Daimler AG
With brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Smart under its wing, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler AG is a multinational automotive behemoth. It counts as among the largest producers of trucks in the world, and its subsidiaries include the global Daimler Financial Services. In 2014 the corporation ranked eighth on the Reputation Institute’s “The World’s Most Reputable Companies” list; plus, it made Forbes’ “Global 2000,” with a market value of $102.9 billion. Daimler employs a worldwide staff of 275,384 and operates in every continent barring Antarctica. Chairman Dieter “Dr. Z” Zetsche is credited with having turned Mercedes-Benz around, and as a result Time magazine awarded him a place on its 2006 “Time 100.” Furthermore, in 2013 Complex featured Zetsche in its rundown of “The 50 Most Influential People in the Auto Industry.”
26. Rosneft OAO
Owned by Russia’s government, Moscow-based Rosneft is the biggest publicly listed petroleum company in the world. In 2012 Global Finance magazine ranked it third in its rundown of the “25 Most Influential Companies Over the Past 25 Years.” Two years later, Forbes placed Rosneft 34th on its “Global 2000” power list, citing the corporation’s market value at $70 billion and profits at $12.8 billion. Also in 2014, the Financial Times described the firm’s CEO – and ex-Soviet intelligence agent – Igor Sechin as “Russia’s second most powerful man,” while the company came in at 46th on Fortune’s “Global 500,” with a net income of $117.079 billion.
Operating in no less than 170 countries, New York State-based technology and consulting titan IBM is among the world’s most recognizable brands. In 2013 Forbes ranked it fourth on its “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” list, with its brand value cited as $50.7 billion. In 2012 Global Finance magazine also included it on its “25 Most Influential Companies Over the Past 25 Years” list. IBM boasts a global staff of over 430,000 and made $16.5 billion in profits from 2013 to 2014. In 2013 Time described IBM as “an icon of American technology innovation.” Moreover, the following year the company made a landmark deal with Apple Inc. to co-develop apps and pre-install Apple software on its machines. Fortune and Forbes have dubbed current IBM CEO Virginia “Ginni” Rometty one of the most powerful women in business.
24. Sinopec Group (China Petroleum Corporation)
Based in Beijing, China’s Sinopec Group (also known as the China Petrochemical Corporation) is the largest oil refining business in Asia. In 2014 the state-owned corporation made Forbes’ “Global 2000,” with a staggering $445.3 billion in sales. Meanwhile, in 2011 New Scientist revealed that a handful of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology complex systems theorists had compiled a list of 147 companies that “[run] the world” and that Sinopec Group had figured among the top 50. Through its subsidiaries, Sinopec operates in Asia, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Australia, employing 368,953 people globally. Sinopec’s chairman Fu Chengyu was honored with Yale’s Legend in Leadership Award at the Yale School of Management’s 2013 CEO Summit. That same year, The Economist described Chengyu as a man with “global ambitions” who is trying to change “domestically focused [Sinopec] into an international oil giant.”
According to Fortune, AT&T’s “earnings more than doubled” in 2013. Boosted by this increase, the Dallas-based telecommunications multinational held on to 11th spot on the all-important “Fortune 500” in 2014. AT&T in addition made Forbes’ 2014 “Global 2000” list thanks to profits of $18.2 billion and a $182.7 billion market value; and it was also included in the magazine’s 2013 most powerful brands breakdown, with a brand value of $24.2 billion and brand revenue of $126.4 billion. Current CEO Randall Stephenson – who earned his MBA at the University of Oklahoma – also serves on the Council on Foreign Relations, and in 2013 he placed second in FierceWireless’ rundown of the “The 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless and Wireline.” Aside from its firm foothold in the Americas, AT&T has a presence in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and employs a staff of 246,740.
22. HSBC Holdings plc
Based in London, HSBC Holdings plc is one of the biggest and most powerful banking groups in the world, employing over 254,000 people across Europe, the Americas, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In 2014 it ranked 14th on Forbes’ elite “Global 2000” list, with assets in excess of $2.6 trillion and a market value of $192.6 billion. The company was also included in Forbes’ breakdown of the most powerful brands, generating $104.9 billion in brand revenue. Meanwhile, in 2013 HSBC Holdings’ renowned CEO, Stuart Gulliver, made the London Evening Standard’s Power 1000 list, which singles out the city’s “most influential” annual dealmakers. “The star investment banker hasn’t been afraid to make a break with the past since rising to the top job two years ago,” wrote the daily newspaper.
21. Microsoft Corporation
In 2014 Microsoft Corporation co-founder Bill Gates reclaimed his place at the top of Forbes’ “The World’s Billionaires” list, owing to an overwhelming net worth of around $76 billion. That year, the iconic Redmond, Washington-based tech company also made the magazine’s “Global 2000,” with a market value of $343.8 billion, and placed joint tenth in the Reputation Institute’s “The World’s Most Reputable Companies” rundown. Further highlighting its power and influence, Microsoft ranked second on Forbes’ 2013 most powerful brands list, which put its brand value at $56.7 billion. The firm’s more recent business maneuvers include acquiring Skype Technologies and Nokia, buying stakes in Facebook and Barnes & Noble, and teaming up with Salesforce.com. Incumbent CEO Satya Nadella – who earned his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business – took over in February 2014. Time has described him as the world’s “most powerful Indian-born tech executive.”
20. Wells Fargo & Company
With a presence everywhere from Seattle to Sydney, San Francisco-based banking and financial holding company Wells Fargo is a massive U.S. multinational with widespread global presence. In 2014 it ranked eighth on Forbes’ esteemed “Global 2000” list of the biggest public companies in the world, with over $1.5 trillion in assets and a market value of $261.4 billion. In 2014 Wells Fargo topped The Banker and Brand Finance’s study of banking’s 500 most valuable brands, and the previous year it made Forbes’ list of the most powerful brands in the world, generating brand revenue of $91.2 billion. Known for its political spending, Wells Fargo has amassed a sizeable lobbying presence, explaining that “active engagement in the legislative process is an important part of responsible corporate citizenship.” Incumbent chairman and CEO John Stumpf earned an MBA from the University of Minnesota.
Headquartered in London, oil and gas “supermajor” BP has operations in more than 80 countries and a worldwide staff of 83,900. In 2014 the long-established energy company was ranked 17th on Forbes’ “Global 2000” power list, with a market value of $148.8 billion and profits of $23.6 billion. That same year, boasting revenues of $396.217 billion, it also placed sixth on Fortune’s revered “Global 500,” and the publication noted that “profits for [BP] more than doubled” in 2013. BP’s Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley – who joined Rosneft’s board of directors in 2013 – achieved his MBA at Southern Methodist University.
18. Bank of America Corporation
In 2014 Forbes ranked Bank of America 13th on its “Global 2000” list of the world’s largest public companies, factoring in its more than $2 trillion in combined assets. Forbes also included the Charlotte, North Carolina-based banking and finance multinational in its 2013 breakdown of the world’s 100 most powerful brands. In 2008 the American “big four” corporation acquired major investment company Merrill Lynch, raising its stakes in the banking and wealth management industries even higher. Through its Political Action Committee, Bank of America is known for its predominantly Republican Party-backing political involvement and corporate political spending, while president and CEO Brian Moynihan has been described as possibly one of America’s “most powerful” bankers. Outside the U.S., Bank of America has a presence in Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, employing over 245,000 people globally.
17. Royal Dutch Shell
Big oil “supermajor” Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) is headquartered in the Netherlands’ government capital of The Hague but also has a registered office in London. In 2014 the corporation placed 11th on Forbes’ “Global 2000” power list, with sales of $451.4 billion. Meanwhile, in 2013 it additionally found a spot in the magazine’s breakdown of most powerful brands on the planet, with a brand value of $7.6 billion. Operating in every continent barring Antarctica, the firm boasts a global staff of 92,000 and a market value of $234.1 billion. New CEO Ben van Beurden – who was instated at the beginning of 2014 – has been credited with kickstarting the company’s ailing chemicals department.
16. Google Inc.
In 2013 Google ranked fifth on Forbes’ most powerful brands list, with a brand value of $47.3 billion, generating $43.5 billion in brand revenue. The tech superpower also shared top honors (with the Walt Disney Company) in the Reputation Institute’s 2014 rundown of “The World’s Most Reputable Companies” and made Forbes’ “Global 2000” list – with a market value of $382.5 billion. In 2014, discussing the world’s most powerful tech companies on Bloomberg, highly respected businessman Martin Sorrell called Google “the strongest by some considerable distance.” He also noted that Google “has penetrated China in a very subtle way” through its Android smartphones. “Google is becoming the most powerful corporation in the world,” Stanford tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa has stated, citing the company’s impressive portfolio. “Google is everywhere,” he also said. In 2014 CEO Larry Page topped Forbes’ roll call of the most powerful U.S. CEOs aged 40 and below.
Moscow-based oil and gas giant Gazprom ended the 2013-2014 fiscal year with profits of $39 billion, making Forbes’ 2014 list of the biggest public companies in the world and securing a market value of $88.88 billion. The state-owned mega-company is the world’s biggest harvester of natural gas and is regularly described as Russia’s most powerful corporation. In 2014 the International Business Times called Gazprom Russia’s “political tool,” pointing out its ability to cut gas supplies to Ukraine. CEO Alexey Miller is also a friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin, having operated in a position junior to him in the Saint Petersburg Mayor’s Office. In 2014 Gazprom struck a landmark $400 billion deal to supply PetroChina with 30 years’ worth of gas. Plus, the firm placed second on Global Finance’s 2012 “25 Most Influential Companies Over the Past 25 Years” list, one spot behind PetroChina.
14. Berkshire Hathaway
Based in Omaha, Nebraska’s skyscraping Kiewit Plaza, super-conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is a dollar-crunching investment and insurance colossus that dates back to the 1830s. Nicknamed the “Oracle of Omaha,” CEO Warren Buffett is one of the 20th century’s most revered investors, and his estimated net worth stands at $64 billion. Buffett is a strong financial and vocal backer of U.S. president Barack Obama, and in 2008 Obama turned to him as an economic adviser. In 2014 Forbes ranked Berkshire Hathaway fifth on its “The World’s Biggest Public Companies” list, with a market value of $309.1 billion and profits of $19.5 billion. Boasting stakes in companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., General Motors, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, IBM, American Express, Coca-Cola and Wells Fargo, as well as a staggering list of subsidiaries, Berkshire Hathaway is among the world’s most powerful firms. It employs in excess of 300,000 people globally.
13. Volkswagen Group
Despite its vaguely hippie associations – think classic camper vans – German automobile giant Volkswagen Group is one of the most powerful corporations in the world, with brands under its wing including Volkswagen, Bentley, Lamborghini, Audi and Ducati. Based in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, the group boasts a worldwide staff of over 572,000 employees and has factories in every continent barring Antarctica. Local team VfL Wolfsburg even plays soccer at the Volkswagen Arena. During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Volkswagen Group’s sales totaled $261.5 billion, with profits of $12 billion, and its assets were valued at $446.9 billion. CEO Martin Winterkorn has promised to turn Volkswagen into the world’s largest electric car manufacturer, and in 2012 Top Gear included him on its “Men of the Year” list, for “keeping VW moving forward.”
12. General Electric
American mega-conglomerate General Electric’s wide range of industry-hopping services varies from home appliances and aviation to cutting-edge power generation and healthcare technology. The Fairfield, Connecticut-based company ended the 2013-2014 fiscal year with an impressive market value of $259.6 billion and currently employs roughly 305,000 people in 130 countries around the globe. In 2013 it also ranked seventh on Forbes’ “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” list. GE’s chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, earned his MBA at Harvard Business School and worked with Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013 – serving as the Chairperson of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness for two years.
Based in Irving, Texas, ExxonMobil is the largest of the so-called big oil “supermajors,” employing some 75,000 people globally. In 2012 The New Yorker called ExxonMobil – which it also describes as “the country’s biggest and most powerful oil company” – the “finance arm of the Republican Party.” This aside, in 2013 the firm made Forbes’ most powerful brands list, while its CEO, Rex Tillerson, placed 16th in the magazine’s rundown of “The World’s Most Powerful People 2013.” “Exxon remains the largest non-state oil and gas producer in the world, with operations on six continents,” the publication has explained. In 2014 ExxonMobil ranked sixth on the Forbes “Global 2000,” boasting a market value of $422.3 billion, and it also placed second on the “Fortune 500” the same year.
10. Bank of China Limited
Headquartered in Beijing’s Xicheng District, Bank of China Limited stands as one of China’s “big four” state-owned banks. All four institutions made the Forbes 2014 “Global 2000” top ten, with Bank of China Limited clinching ninth place thanks to profits of $25.5 billion, a market value of $124.2 billion and assets totaling more than $2.2 trillion. Bank of China Limited boasts a worldwide staff of 305,675 and a global network that includes branches in China, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Dubai, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Singapore, Luxembourg and Taiwan. Current Bank of China Limited chairman Tian Guoli took over in 2013, and that year the company placed 11th on SNL Financial’s list of the world’s 100 biggest banks.
Based out of Beijing’s Dongcheng District, Chinese oil and gas powerhouse PetroChina chalked up a staggering $328.5 billion in sales during the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which translated into a net profit of $21.1 billion. Throw in the company’s $386.9 billion in assets, $202 billion market value and more than 552,000 employees – working in offices from Dubai to Houston – and it paints a compelling picture of gargantuan global presence and power. In May 2014 PetroChina’s chairman Zhou Jiping – who is also the chairman of parent company the China National Petroleum Corporation – fronted a landmark 30-year deal with Gazprom to supply China with more than “1 trillion cubic meters of gas,” which Gazprom says will be furnished “via the eastern route.” Gazprom additionally called it “the biggest investment project on a global scale.”
Based out of headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. controls the largest multinational retail empire in the world. In fact, operating under 71 different names, the firm has retail units in 27 countries – from South Africa to Japan – and employs an incredible 2.2 million people globally. Once described as “the world’s most powerful company,” Wal-Mart had 2013-2014 sales totaling a massive $476.5 billion, netting $16 billion in profit and gaining an impressive market value of $247.9 billion. In 2013 Forbes ranked Wal-Mart 18th on its “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” list, with a brand value of $21.7 billion and brand revenue of $299.5 billion. Current Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. president and CEO Doug McMillon – who once acted as a U.S. China Business Council board director – assumed command in February 2014.
In 2013 Forbes ranked South Korean multinational Samsung ninth on its list of the most powerful global brands, with a brand value put at $29.5 billion. Based in the imposing Samsung Town office park in Seoul, Samsung comprises a life insurance, heavy industry, engineering, construction, aerospace and defense, advertising and electronics empire with a worldwide staff of 427,000. From 2013 to 2014 Samsung Electronics generated profits of $27.2 billion, figuring on Forbes’ 2014 list of the largest public companies in the world, and it furthermore placed tenth in the Reputation Institute’s 2014 “The World’s Most Reputable Companies” rundown. Samsung was also included among Global Finance magazine’s “25 Most Influential Companies Over the Past 25 Years.” With an estimated net worth of $12.9 billion, Samsung Group’s chairman Lee Kun-Hee is up there with the world’s richest and most powerful people, while Samsung itself has had a major impact on South Korean economics, politics and culture.
6. Toyota Motor Corporation
Japanese automobile manufacturing leader Toyota Motor Corporation is so massive that it even has a city named after it. The firm is based in Toyota (formerly Koromo) in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, and in 2012 it produced its 200 millionth automobile. In 2014 Toyota made Forbes’ “The World’s Biggest Public Companies” list, having raked in $255.6 billion in sales and $18.8 billion in profits during the preceding fiscal year; and in 2013 it was slotted in on the magazine’s most powerful brands list, with a brand value of $25.6 billion. According to the corporation’s website, globally it runs 75 manufacturing firms “thanks to the support of a 320,000-strong workforce.” Toyota also made the Reputation Institute’s 2014 breakdown of “The World’s Most Reputable Companies” and Global Finance’s “25 Most Influential Companies Over the Past 25 Years” list. Current president and CEO Akio Toyoda earned his MBA from private Massachusetts business school Babson College.
5. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
In 2014 Forbes ranked global financial services and banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. fourth on its “The World’s Biggest Public Companies” list, with the firm’s assets topping $2.4 trillion. That same year, the multinational made profits of $17.3 billion, ratcheting up a market value of $229.7 billion. JPMorgan Chase is based in Manhattan, New York and, outside the U.S., has a presence in South America, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, employing 260,000 people globally. Its CEO, Jamie Dimon – who is closely linked to the White House – made Time’s rundown of “The Most Influential People in the World” in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011, and in 2014 CNBC listed him among the most influential people on Wall Street. Dimon earned his MBA at Harvard and, adding to his honors, in 2013 featured on Forbes’ “The World’s Most Powerful People” list.
4. Agricultural Bank of China Limited (ABC)
In 2014 Chinese banking colossus the Agricultural Bank of China Limited (ABC) ranked third on Forbes’ high-profile “Global 2000” list of “the biggest, most powerful and most valuable companies in the world.” That year, the firm netted profits of $27 billion and its assets were valued at a staggering $2.405 trillion. With subsidiaries in the U.K. and Hong Kong and branches in places ranging from New York to Sydney, ABC employs 478,980 people, with operations centering on its headquarters in Beijing’s Dongcheng District. The company made its IPO in 2010, generating a still record-holding $22.1 billion. Then in 2012 ABC installed new chairman Jiang Chaoliang, who made his name working for China’s Bank of Communications and the China Development Bank.
3. Apple Inc.
In 2013 tech giant Apple Inc. came out on top in Forbes’ breakdown of “The World’s Most Valuable Brands,” with its brand worth listed at $104.3 billion. That year, the Reputation Institute ranked Apple as the seventh most reputable company in the world, and the Financial Times placed it first on its yearly FT Global 500 list with a market value of over $415.6 billion. In 2012 Global Finance magazine featured Apple among its “25 Most Influential Companies Over the Past 25 Years,” while Forbes dubbed it “the world’s most powerful brand.” CEO Tim Cook – who is also a Nike board member and has been described by the pop culture media as the “world’s most powerful gay man” – succeeded Steve Jobs in 2011. Apple apparently has 425 stores globally and is based out of its famous Apple Campus headquarters in Cupertino, California.
2. China Construction Bank Corporation (CCB)
In 2006 China Construction Bank Corporation (CCB) took over Bank of America (Asia). Three years later, it opened a London subsidiary as well as a New York branch. In 2013 the rapidly growing banking giant established a new European command center in Luxembourg, and by 2014 it had placed second on Forbes’ power-ranking “Global 2000” list, second only to fellow Beijing based mega-bank the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. CCB finished the 2013-2014 fiscal year with a market value of $174.4 billion and assets topping $2.4 trillion. Boasting branches in locations ranging from Tokyo to Johannesburg, in addition to thousands within China itself, CCB employs a staff of nearly 350,000 people all told. In 2012 Wang Hongzhang – whom Australia’s Business Spectator described as “one of [China’s] most powerful bankers” – took over as the company’s new chairman and executive director.
1. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)
With $3,124.9 billion in assets, the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Limited (ICBC) is the world’s largest and most powerful bank. It ended the 2013-2014 fiscal year with $42.7 billion in profits and a market value of $215.6 billion, topping Forbes’ 2014 “The World’s Biggest Public Companies” list. When in 2006 the banking juggernaut made its IPO – simultaneously inaugurating its public trading on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange – it broke new ground as the then biggest offering, with a value of $21.9 billion. The Beijing-headquartered company has a foothold in every continent except Africa and Antarctica, employing over 425,000 staff globally. In 2014 chairman Jiang Jianqing – who was once a laborer in China’s Jiangxi Province – also made history as the first Chinese banker to co-chair the annual World Economic Forum.