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The most valuable companies in the world are generally compared by market capitalisation – a figure that represents the cost of buying all of a company’s outstanding shares at their current prices. Discover the 10 most valuable companies in the world by market capitalisation and learn more about each of these businesses.
This list was updated on 20 November 2018 but changes regularly in line with normal stock market fluctuations. For the most up-to-date top ten, you can visit our market screener and sort the list of shares by market cap.
Apple is a technology company based in Cupertino, California. It was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne to manufacture computers, but its line has expanded over the years to include iconic products such as the iPod and iPhone, and services such as iTunes, Apple Music and Apple Pay. It is currently led by CEO Tim Cook.
Its shares increased by 1600% between November 2008 and November 2018, and in August 2018, Apple became the first company to achieve a market capitalisation of over $1 trillion.
Since then, Apple’s market capitalisation has fallen below the $1 trillion mark, meaning that competition for the top spot is rife.
Microsoft is a technology company that is based in Redmond, Washington. It was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975 to develop software, though its product line has since expanded to include computer hardware as well. Its most famous software products are Microsoft Windows and the Office suite, while its hardware includes the Xbox consoles and Surface tablet computers.
Microsoft has perennially been part of the top ten highest-valued companies worldwide by market cap, and its share price has increased by around 400% over the last ten years (as of 20 November 2018).
Like many technology companies, Microsoft is looking to expand its range of products and services. It has acquired several tech companies in recent years with its biggest acquisition to date being its 2016 purchase of LinkedIn.
Amazon is an e-commerce and cloud computing company, which is based in Seattle, Washington. It was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, who continues as the company’s CEO. Back then, it was called ‘Cadabra’ and only sold books. Since then, the product range has expanded to such an extent that it is now informally referred to as ‘the everything store’.
From November 2008 to November 2018, Amazon shares increased by around 2800%. The company became the second to achieve a $1 trillion valuation, when it hit this figure temporarily in September 2018.
Today, Amazon continues to expand into new business areas – for example, acquiring Whole Foods Market to enter the retail space, and attempting to disrupt Hollywood studios and record labels with its Prime Video and Music services.
Alphabet was founded in a 2015 restructuring of Google Inc. and is based in Mountain View, California. It is the parent company of Google – which offers the eponymous search engine and YouTube – as well as lesser-known subsidiaries including:
The company, which was Google until its October 2015 restructuring, saw an increase of more than 500% in its share price between November 2008 and November 2018.
Berkshire Hathaway is a holding company that is based in Omaha, Nebraska. It started life as the Valley Falls Company, a textiles manufacturer, in 1839 and became known as Berkshire Hathaway in 1955 after various mergers. It was bought by Warren Buffett in the mid-1960s, and he remains the company’s CEO.
The company hasn’t manufactured textiles since the 1980s, as Buffett transitioned the company into investments. It now wholly owns GEICO, Dairy Queen, the BNSF Railway and Fruit of the Loom, among many others. It also owns shares in a variety of companies including Apple, Delta Airlines and American Express.
As a result, the group’s revenue comes from a diversified portfolio, which includes companies across many different industries – including insurance and finance, food, construction, clothing, footwear, marketing, media, aerospace and defence, electronics, automotive, and more.
Berkshire Hathaway’s Class A stock is the world’s most expensive publicly-traded share because there has never been a stock split. Its valuation was more than $330,000 as of 20 November 2018. At the same time, its ordinary shares, Class B, were trading at around $220 – representing a rise of almost 200% between November 2008 and November 2018.
Johnson & Johnson is a multinational manufacturer of consumer goods, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, which is based in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It was founded in 1886 by the Johnson brothers – Robert Wood, James Wood and Edward Mead – and is currently led by Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky.
The company owns around 250 subsidiaries and brands, and sells its products in more than 175 countries globally. Its consumer products span baby care and beauty products, as well as over-the-counter medicines.
The company also sells medical devices for use by trained professionals – for example, in surgical theatres – and develops treatments for conditions spanning a wide range of therapeutic areas.
Between November 2008 and November 2018, Johnson & Johnson stock rose 145%. It has been a fairly stable member of the top 10 companies by market capitalisation since 2013.
The Alibaba Group is a Chinese company, which offers a wide variety of B2B, B2C and C2C internet services. It was founded by Jack Ma, who is still the company’s executive chairman, and run by CEO Daniel Zhang. It is based in Hangzhou, Zheijang.
Though it is primarily known for its wholesale retail website, Alibaba.com, the conglomerate also offers retail, e-commerce, cloud computing, digital media and financial technology services. The latter offering includes a cross-border money-transfer service, which forms part of the company’s initiatives to fuel growth across the world.
Since its initial public offering (IPO) in September 2014, the company’s share price has risen by 50% to become the most valuable Chinese firm in the world (as of 20 November 2018).
Facebook Inc. is a company that offers social media and social networking services, which is based in Menlo Park, California. It was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, who is still the company’s CEO.
Facebook connects more than 2.2 billion active users every month, which is more than the population of China, Brazil and the US together. The company also runs several other social networking platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp.
Since its IPO in 2012, Facebook shares have increased by around 250% (as of 20 November 2018). However, it has been hit by several corporate scandals in recent years, which have affected its share price.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is an investment bank and financial services firm, based in New York City, New York. It has operated under its current structure since December 2000 when J.P. Morgan & Co. and the Chase Manhattan Corporation merged and became subsidiaries of the new firm.
However, its origins can actually be traced back to the Bank of the Manhattan Company, which was founded in 1799. It is currently led by Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon.
Between its subsidiaries the bank offers a variety of financial services including investment banking, asset and wealth management, and private banking. Its share price has risen by 190% since November 2008 (as of 20 November 2018).
Tencent Holdings Limited is a Chinese holding company, which is based in Nanshan District, Shenzhen. It was founded in 1998 by Zhang Zhidong, Xu Chenye, Chen Yidan, Zeng Liqing and Ma Huateng. The latter remains chairman and CEO.
Tencent’s subsidiaries span a wide range of industries because its portfolio companies work across a wide variety of sectors. These include e-commerce, social media, video gaming, financial services, AI and cloud computing – to name just a few. One illustration of the company’s scale is that it owns all four of the top music apps in China, which together have around 800 million monthly active users – far more than Spotify, which has only around 200 million subscribers, primarily in Western countries.
The company’s share price increased by more than 2450% between November 2008 and November 2018. However, there have been significant fluctuations with its price in recent years – in part due to Chinese-government interventions. This has, at times, seen its price and market capitalisation fall back below IPO levels.
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This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited and IG Markets South Africa Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients. International accounts are offered by IG Markets Limited in the UK (FCA Number 195355), a juristic representative of IG Markets South Africa Limited (FSP No 41393). South African residents are required to obtain the necessary tax clearance certificates in line with their foreign investment allowance and may not use credit or debit cards to fund their international account.