5 Largest Companies in the World by Market Cap in 2021
As the COVID-19 pandemic struck the global economy in 2020, the world’s largest companies by market cap were not impervious to significant reductions in market capitalization. Five of them, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook lost a combined $416.63 billion in their market cap value, according to CNBC.
However, what is fairly surprising, in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic from 31 March 2020 to 31 March 2021, the market capitalization of the Global Top 100 companies shot up by $10.3 trillion, representing a 48% growth, to reach a record breaking market capitalization of $31.7 trillion, according to PwC.
So who is the latest winner of the race? According to CompaniesMarketCap.com, Apple is the most valuable company in the world with a $2.67 trillion market cap as of 4 December 2021. The tech behemoth reclaimed its first spot after a short reign of Microsoft with a $2.42 trillion market cap who temporarily was placed first when Apple missed Wall Street expectations in the fourth quarter of 2021, due to supply chain constraints, reported CNBC. As competition is cut and thrust between these two rivals, reshuffles are expected at the top of this race.
In this article, you will find the top five largest companies in the world by market cap: Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Saudi Aramco, and Amazon, which demonstrate immense dominance and continuously outperform their competitors by relentless execution of their strategy. The presented order of the world's largest companies is very up-to-date and applies to the date of December 4, 2021; however, it is worthy to note that due to the constant changes in share prices, it is unstable and subject to fluctuations.
1. Apple - $2.67 Trillion Market Cap
Due to stock price volatility, Microsoft and Apple have taken turns as the world's most valuable companies over the last few years. As of the time of publication, Apple is currently in the first place of the world’s largest companies by market cap ranking, however, this can change any time.
Although Apple was temporarily unseated by Microsoft due to supply chain issues and an ongoing chip shortage, the tech giant quickly regained the title of the largest company by market cap in the world to become again the leader of the pack.
Apple Inc. was the first company to go beyond $1 trillion in market capitalization in 2018, and only two years later, it surpassed $2 trillion, doubling its market value in just over two years.
To put that astounding figure in context, we need to present some reference points. Benchmarking Apple's market cap against the U.S. GDP in 2020, its market cap constitutes approximately 9.8% of 20.94 trillion. Additionally, referring to national economies, just 7 countries in the whole world have GDP exceeding $2 trillion: United States, China, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, India, and France, which makes the tech behemoth’s a more powerful entity than the majority of national economies.
Headquartered in Cupertino, California, Apple was founded in 1977 by high school classmates Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, who got their start in Jobs' parents' garage. Currently, with 147,000 full-time employees, the company designs, manufactures, and markets a wide array of revolutionary products that experience tremendous commercial success, becoming larger-than-life icons in their product groups. Among them are iPhones, Mac computers and laptops, iPad tablets, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs, all contributing to Apple’s astounding growth.
Furthermore, Apple not only operates a global network of consumer retail stores but also offers the online App Store with downloads and streaming of mobile applications, music, movies, and other entertainment and supports Apple Pay, which is a cashless payment system.
Apple’s success has its origins in Steve Jobs, the iconic founder, talented CEO, and remarkable visionary with great public speaking skills and extraordinary charisma for whom nothing was impossible.
After Jobs's death in 2011, Apple’s reins were taken over by Tim Cook who has served as Apple's CEO ever since. Under his management, the global tech titan has become so successful as never before. In the last ten years, Apple’s annual revenue almost quadrupled. Starting at $108.2 billion in 2011, the company reported a record high annual revenue of $365.8 billion in 2021 which represents staggering growth of approximately 350%, according to Statista. Additionally, Apple’s share price has shot up more than tenfold over the last decade, making the Cupertino tech giant one of the largest companies in terms of the market cap in the world.Back to top
2. Microsoft - $2.42 Trillion Market Cap
According to the latest data from 8 November 2021, Microsoft ranked as the world's most valuable company, with a market capitalization of $2.52 trillion based on its share price of $336. Unlike Apple who failed to meet financial markets’ revenue expectations despite a 47% growth in sales of iPhones year over year, Microsoft managed to not only meet them but even beat them, gaining about 22% year over year which was the fastest revenue increase since 2018.
The last time Microsoft outstripped Apple in market capitalization was in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with supply chains. After announcing the first Windows update in more than five years in June 2020, the company surpassed a $2 trillion market cap for the first time, CNBC reported.
Founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen originally as Micro-Soft to produce microprocessors and software, the company eventually evolved into a multinational technology giant with more than 140,000 full-time employees. At the end of 1978, Microsoft reached a financial milestone of $1 million in sales, and in 1979 the company moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up.
By the end of 1978, Microsoft reached a financial milestone of $1 million in sales, making its founders move its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up. When Microsoft produced its MS-DOS operating system, it licensed it to IBM to be used in its first personal computer in 1981.
Microsoft Corporation is a multinational technology company focused on the development of computer software, personal computers, consumer electronics, and related services. The company's most popular software products include the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, the Microsoft Office Suite, the Internet Explorer, and Edge web browsers. In terms of hardware, Microsoft's most iconic products are the Xbox video game console and the Microsoft Surface line of tablets. Based on total revenue, Microsoft ranked No. 21 in the Fortune 500 ranking of the top U.S. corporations in 2020 and was the largest software maker by revenue in the world in 2016.
Despite having dominated the operating system market since the 1990s, Microsoft has continued to diversify and has acquired several companies, including LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016 and Skype Technologies for $8.5 billion in 2011.
A Forbes ranking of the largest United States corporations by total revenue ranked Microsoft at No. 21 in the 2020 listing; as of 2016, it was the largest software maker by revenue in the world. Based on total revenue, Microsoft ranked No. 21 in the Fortune 500 ranking of the top U.S. corporations in 2020 and was the global leader in the software industry, as of 2016. Furthermore, in the U.S. information technology industry, Microsoft is recognized as one of the Big Five companies, alongside Apple, Amazon, Google (Alphabet), and Facebook (Meta).Back to top
3. Saudi Aramco - $1.86 Trillion Market Cap
Saudi Aramco, officially known as Saudi Arabian Oil Company, is the largest public petroleum and natural gas company in the world. The early beginnings date back to 1933 when Saudi Arabia and the Standard Oil Company of California signed a Concession Agreement which was managed by a subsidiary company, the California Arabian Standard Oil Company. According to Statista, Saudi Aramco produced 9.2 million barrels of crude oil per day in 2020, which was more than double the amount extracted by its closest competitor making it the largest daily oil producer of all oil-producing companies.
As the company had the world’s second-largest proven crude oil reserves with 261.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOe) in 2019, it accounted for approximately 10% of the world’s crude oil supply, according to Statista.
In terms of profits, the oil goliath ranks the second with $49,28 billion as of November 2021, just behind Apple, in Fortune Global 500 ranking which makes it one of the most profitable companies in the world, leaving Google or Meta (Facebook) behind.
Based in the city of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the oil company, which is predominantly state-owned, reports on its website that it employs more than 70,000 people. Since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has 98.1% of the ownership of Saudi Aramco, less than 2% of shares belong to other investors, including Vanguard Group, and Blackrock, Fortune maintains.
Even though three billion shares of Saudi Aramco were sold in an IPO in 2019, raising a record $25.6 billion, just approximately 1.5% of the company's shares belong to public investors which is substantially lower than in the case of firms like Apple whose 84% of shares are held by the public. By keeping the oil giant’s ownership under control, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may still have a final say in terms of all company issues.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi Aramco reported a slump in net income, reaching $49 billion in 2019, in contrast to 2020 with $88 billion. In fact, the volatility of energy prices and demand were major factors that affected the company's bottom line.Back to top
4. Alphabet (Google) - $1.85 Trillion Market Cap
Alphabet, acknowledged as one of the Big Tech or Big Five companies in the information technology industry, together with Apple, Amazon, Meta (Facebook), and Microsoft is a multinational technology conglomerate holding company. It is one of the largest, most powerful, and most prestigious companies in the technology industry, specializing in digital services and products with global revenue of $181.7 billion and a net income of $40.27 billion in 2021. The company’s various offerings include a search engine, online advertising technologies, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, software, hardware, cloud computing, and even biotechnology.
Alphabet Inc. was established in 2015 as a result of the restructuring of Google to become the parent company of Google and several other subsidiaries, including Google Fiber, DeepMind, X Development, Intrinsic, Calico, Nest, Waymo, Verily, Isomorphic Labs, CapitalG, Wing, and GV. As the holding company is organized like Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, each business has its own CEO reporting to Alphabet CEO, Sundar Pichai.
Google was initially created as a research project at Stanford University by three Ph.D. students, Larry Page, Sergey Brin in their dorm rooms where they created a search engine, called Backrub, determining the relevance of individual web pages based on links. Not many people know that apart from Page and Brin, there was also “the third founder”, Scott Hassan who wrote much of the code for the original Google Search engine, however, he left the project before Google was officially founded in 1998.
While originally, the company was headquartered in the garage of Susan Wojcicki in Menlo Park, California, currently its main corporate headquarters is located in a famous complex known as the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, offering 3.5 million square feet of office space.
To accelerate growth, Google went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbols GOOGL and GOOG through an initial public offering (IPO) in 2004. By selling 19,605,052 shares at $85 per share, the company raised $1.67 billion which gave it a market capitalization of more than $23 billion. As the stock has performed extraordinarily well, with shares hitting $2,832.36 as of December 2, 2021, the tech giant's market cap has reached $1.87 trillion.
So why did Google achieve such a dramatic pace of growth? Mainly due to the shift in large companies advertising strategies from television, newspapers, and magazines to the Internet, Google started to gain a bigger and bigger market share of online advertising which resulted in its upswing of sales and earnings.
With over 270 million U.S. unique visitors, 6.9 billion searches every day in 2020, and an astounding 2.5 trillion searches per year worldwide, Google gained record high 61.4% of market share among the leading U.S. search engine providers, ranking first amongst the most visited multi-platform web properties in the United States as of October 2020.
According to Google search statistics from Internet Live Stats, Google processes 40,000 search queries per second on average, which adds up to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches annually, making it the most powerful search engine in the world.Back to top
5. Amazon - $1.71 Trillion Market Cap
Launched in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, Amazon Inc., is a global technology company with the most recognizable name when it comes to online shopping, but focusing not only on e-commerce, but also on cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and streaming content. The current President and CEO of Amazon.com, Inc. is Andy Jassy, replacing Jeff Bezos in June 2021 who has become Executive Chairman.
Despite its humble beginnings as an online bookstore, the company generated a staggering $110.81 billion of net revenue in the third quarter of 2021 and employed 1,298,000 employees in 2021. In terms of website visits, Amazon is definitely the most visited e-commerce platform in the US, generating over 2.7 billion and 5.7 billion worldwide direct visits across all devices as of June 2021, Statista reported.
As e-commerce in the US is continually expanding, Amazon recorded net sales of approximately $386 billion in 2020, making it the world's largest e-commerce retailer. The company's revenues are generated primarily through e-commerce sales of electronics and other items, followed by subscriptions, AWS cloud services, and fees from third-party sellers.
Due to the e-commerce giant’s global reach and success, Amazon has been acknowledged by The Kantar Group as the world’s most valuable brand in 2021, becoming the first half-a-trillion-dollar brand. As a result of a 64% growth rate amounting to $268 billion, Amazon’s brand value reached $684 billion, outstripping Apple with $612 billion brand value.
Renowned for disrupting established industries through technological innovation, mass scale, and insatiable hunger for expansion, Amazon is constantly on the hunt for new markets and bigger market share, accomplished through numerous acquisitions. In fact, its portfolio has grown to at least 128 companies from New York to Dubai over nearly two decades.
To name Amazon's biggest three acquisitions in terms of value, Whole Foods Market was bought for $13.7 billion, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.5 billion, and Zoox for $1.2 billion.
By acquiring Whole Foods Market, Amazon not only gained brick-and-mortar space but even more importantly, it gleaned valuable shopping data on its customers with the aim to better comprehend their offline shopping habits.
Among Amazon's other most impressive acquisitions is shoe retailer Zappos, video game streaming platform Twitch, audiobook seller Audible, social network Goodreads, web traffic analysis company Alexa Internet, and film and television studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
The world’s largest companies by market cap seem to be invincible and far from losing their position as leaders of the pack, even in the most challenging circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic. As a matter of fact, the most influential companies in the world have managed to not only survive but even thrive and strengthen their position as leaders in their industries, increasing their market capitalization by trillions of dollars.
According to market capitalization, Apple, Microsoft, Saudi Aramco, Alphabet, and Amazon are the five largest companies on the planet, as well as dominant players in their respective industries, each executing a unique strategy based on their own unique strength. If you don’t treat their stories just as tidbits but as a source of valuable knowledge and decide to analyze their business model, strategy, and execution, you can find some commonalities and learn some priceless lessons that can be the guidelines, helping you replicate their success.
DISCLAIMER: At the time you are reading this article the order of companies' names may be different as the ranking is based on the information from CompaniesMarketCap.com which is subject to change due to stock price fluctuations.
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Author: Justine Ilone Siporski is Editor-in-Chief & CEO of BUSINESS POWERHOUSE, the founder and CEO of LANGUAGE EMPIRE, coach, trainer, investor, and columnist dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurs, investors and the C-suite (CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, CIOs). Her key mission is to support leaders, business people, and investors in achieving their highest potential, making the right business and investing decisions, and expanding their horizons.