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Largest public companies by market capitalization (2000–2022)

The 10 largest publicly traded companies in the world had a combined market capitalization of nearly 12 trillion dollars from July 2022.

But two decades ago, the players who made up the list of the largest companies by market cap were radically different — and over the years, emerging megatrends and market sentiment have worked to shuffle the deck several times.

This racing bar chart from Truman you shows how the ranking of the top 10 largest public companies changed from 2000 to 2022.

Market Cap vs. Market Value

Before we go into detail, it’s important to note that market capitalization is just one of many metrics that can be used to evaluate a company.

Simply put, a company’s market cap measures the combined price of a company’s outstanding shares — in other words, it’s the price someone would pay if they wanted to buy the company outright at current stock prices (theoretically speaking).

But while a market cap tells you what stocks are worth at any given point in time, calculating market value is far more complicated and nuanced. Finally, a price paid may not reflect the real value of a company. To get a measure of value, other metrics like a company’s price-to-sales (P/E), price-to-earnings (P/E) multiples, or return on equity (ROE) can be considered.

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Largest public companies by market capitalization (2000–2022)

Over the past two decades, investor sentiment has shifted as various trends have taken hold, and the types of companies that have been buoyed by the market have also changed.

For example, technology and telecommunications companies were big in the early 2000s as investors became excited about the seemingly endless potential of the newly launched World Wide Web.

Largest companies by market capitalization (January 1, 2000)

rank company Market Capitalization (January 1, 2000)
#1 🇬🇧Microsoft $606 billion
#2 🇬🇧 General Electric $508 billion
#3 🇯🇵 NTT Docomo $367 billion
#4 🇬🇧 Cisco $352 billion
#5 🇬🇧Walmart $302 billion
#6 🇬🇧 Intel $280 billion
#7 🇯🇵Nippon Telegraph $271 billion
#8th 🇫🇮 Nokia $219 billion
#9 🇬🇧Pfizer $206 billion
#10 🇬🇧 Telecom $197 billion

In the midst of the dot-com bubble, investors poured money into internet-related tech startups. As adoption of personal computers and the Internet increased, investors hoped to “get in early” before these companies really started making profits. This overzealous mood is reflected in the market capitalization of publicly traded companies at the time, particularly the technology or telecom companies that were seen as beneficiaries of the Internet boom.

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Of course, the dot-com bubble wasn’t meant to last, and in January 2004, the top 10 list looked a lot more diverse. By that time, Microsoft had lost the top spot to General Electric, which had a $309 billion market cap. Then, in the late 2000s, energy companies like ExxonMobil, PetroChina, Gazprom and BP took over the list as oil prices soared well above $100 a barrel.

But fast-forward to 2022, and we’ve come full circle, with Big Tech back in the spotlight.

Largest companies by market capitalization (July 1, 2022)

rank company Market Cap (July 1, 2022)
#1 🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia $2.27 trillion
#2 🇬🇧 Apple $2.25 trillion
#3 🇬🇧Microsoft $1.94 trillion
#4 🇺🇸Alphabet $1.43 trillion
#5 🇬🇧Amazon $1.11 trillion
#6 🇬🇧 Tesla $707 billion
#7 🇬🇧 Berkshire Hathaway $612 billion
#8th 🇺🇸 United health group $485 billion
#9 🇬🇧Johnson & Johnson $472 billion
#10 🇨🇳 Tencent $435 billion

Four of the top five companies are in the technology space, and Tencent also tops the list. Tesla is now classified as an automotive company, but is viewed by many investors as an “Internet of Cars” company.

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Big picture trends in the top 10 by market cap

Year description Top Companies (Market Cap USD) Top 10 description
2000 Dot com bubble Microsoft ($606 billion) Several technology/telecom companies in the mix
2004 After the bubble GE ($309 billion) Diverse industry mix of companies
2009 financial crisis PetroChina ($367 billion) Six non-US companies are on the list
2014 $100 oil Apple ($560 billion) Last year of the oil-dominated list; tech starts to rise
2022 Great tech era Aramco ($2,270 billion)* Tech accounts for 80% of the top 5 companies

*As of July 1, 2022. Since then, Saudi Aramco has been outperformed again by Apple on a reversal in oil prices.

trend down?

With interest rates rising, inflation crippling and political issues such as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, signs point to a possible global recession. Tech companies have fared well during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they likely won’t be immune to the impact of a broader economic slowdown.

It will be interesting to see how things play out in 2023 and which companies (if any) will manage to stay on top during the turmoil.

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