American companies still don’t have anyone to spit them out. Only four of the world’s 20 largest publicly traded companies by market value at the end of 2022 are not based at the North American giant: Saudi oil major Aramco (runner-up), Chinese telecoms and technology company Tencent (eleventh), Taiwanese semiconductor maker TSMC (ranked 14th) and the French luxury group LVMH (15th place and the only European representative in the global group Olympus). Amidst heated debates over China’s ability to stand up to US economic hegemony, Washington manages to place no fewer than 16 representatives in this select ranking, one more than a year earlier.
When the focus expands, the numbers are just as stunning. According to Bloomberg data, 23 of the 30 most valuable companies in the world are American. 60 of the 100 are too. In these hundreds, the diversity of nationalities increases: China places 11 names, a good harvest but almost six times less than that of the country that wants to challenge it for the global scepter; France and the UK each have five; little Switzerland, three; India, the Netherlands and Hong Kong, two; and Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, a.
The technologists fight back
As in previous years, US dominance rests in large part on its technology clout. All despite the particularly adverse environment this sector is experiencing following the massive stock market crash of 2022.
Apple sheds more than a quarter of its value in the stock market, but that doesn’t stop it from continuing to top the rankings – easily – by a considerable margin over oil giant Aramco, which is enjoying a particularly sweet moment: the game’s end to Russia, Saudi crude is more important than ever in the jigsaw puzzle that the global energy market has become since the invasion of Ukraine. Next, despite its unfortunate showing on the trading floor, are three other West Coast tech companies: Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon.
The tremors on the stock markets are particularly strong in the case of the technology giants. 2022 was the worst year for stocks since 2008, the year of the financial crisis, and it impacted virtually every big name in the classification. Collectively, the world’s 100 largest publicly traded companies lost $7.2 trillion in just 52 weeks.
The opposite was energy and industrials, by far the most resilient sectors. Also one of the few to add new names to the list. Although the oil sector is at the beginning of its decline, given the need for decarbonization and the emergence of alternative fuels such as green hydrogen, it makes three very recognizable names – the aforementioned Aramco and American companies Exxon Mobbil and Chevron – among the top 20 companies in the world by market value. The Saudi company’s IPO in late 2019, just months before the pandemic, marked its last major debut on world stock markets: today there is no unlisted candidate whose IPO could propel it into such prominent positions.
“The sharp rise in interest rates, inflation, the war in Ukraine, the problems in the supply chain and the rise in energy prices have left their mark on the global stock markets,” explained Stefan Rösch in a recent analysis.-Rütsche, from the Wirtschaftsprüfer and consultant EY. “Tech companies, which had appreciated sharply during the pandemic, are now suffering from a much tougher economic environment.”
Europe, the other side of the coin
The West contains a dual reality of corporate power: a US showing no signs of weakness, and a Europe that has lost the corporate luster it once had. The setback came quickly: if before the financial crisis almost half (46) of the 100 largest companies in the world were based in the old continent – including Great Britain – today there are only fifteen, none of them Spanish. In other words, the European weight in the rating is four times less than the American.
Thriving Asia, led by China, has 19, four more than Europe. India, which is set to become the world’s most populous nation in the coming months and already boasts several tycoons among the world’s richest, adds just two: multi-sector giant Reliance Industries and Tata, another tentacle-backed behemoth automotive, information technology , energy, steel or chemicals.
Unlike their American and Asian competitors, who mix newfangled names with traditional companies, European companies, which are among the largest in the world, have one common denominator: tradition. Some of the most well-known brands of the LVMH Group have a history of more than a hundred years. The Swiss Nestlé, twenty-third and second largest in Europe, was founded in 1866. The origins of the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, third in the competition, date back to the Roaring Twenties. And those of Roche, which is also pharmaceutical, are from the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.
“Many European companies are in the middle of a profound transformation process of their business models, and only a few are young,” says Rösch-Rütsche from the service company EY. On the other side of the Atlantic, he says, photography is radically different: that’s where the most powerful have emerged in recent decades, although traditional companies are well represented. “Their financial situation is significantly better, not only for young companies: While the capital markets in Europe are highly fragmented, there is a broader range of cheap and flexible sources of financing in the USA.”
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