What is the biggest company in the world? Your complete guide to blue-chip stocks

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A headshot of Patrick Foot, financial writer for FOREX.com and CityIndex
By :  ,  Financial Writer

 

 

Read our complete guide to the world’s biggest companies by market cap and revenue. Including the biggest companies in the UK and EU, and how to trade blue-chip stocks.

The top 10 biggest companies in the world by market cap

As of January 11 2023, the biggest companies in the world by market cap are:

Rank

Company

Ticker

Market cap ($million)

Record high ($million)

Country

1

Apple

NASDAQ:AAPL

2,079,000

3,000,000

 US

2

Saudi Aramco

Tadawul:2222

1,865,000

2,450,000

Saudi Arabia

3

Microsoft

NASDAQ:MSFT

1,705,000

2,576,000

 US

4

Alphabet (Google)

NASDAQ:GOOG

1,151,000

2,000,000

 US

5

Amazon

NASDAQ:AMZN

916,820

1,900,000

 US

6

Berkshire Hathaway

NYSE:BRK

697,680

794,270

 US

7

Visa

NYSE:V

468,180

535,000

 US

8

Johnson & Johnson

NYSE:JNJ

457,950

489,470

 US

9

UnitedHealth

NYSE:UNH

454,090

518,700

 US

10

ExxonMobil

NYSE:XOM

453,380

505,710

 US

What is the biggest company in the world?

The biggest company in the world is Apple when measured by market cap. The global tech giant was worth just over $2 trillion at the beginning of 2023 – the only company in the world in the $2 trillion club at that time.

AAPL stock, however, remains some way off its record high. At the beginning of 2022, the company briefly surpassed a valuation of $3 trillion, to date the only stock to have hit such a level. The global bear market in 2022 saw its price fall – but since the selloff hit companies across the board, it wasn’t enough to see Apple lose its crown.

The company first took the top spot in 2011, off the back of the stunning success of the iPhone (launched in 2007) and the iPad (launched in 2010). 2012 saw it consolidate its position with the launch of the iPhone 5, Apple’s most successful launch at the time, and the sale of three million iPads in three days after the launch of the iPad Mini and a new standard model.

Since 2012, Apple has mostly remained at the top of the global stock markets. However, some companies have briefly taken the biggest company in the world title in that time.

  • ExxonMobil briefly took the top spot back in 2013
  • Microsoft – Apple’s long-standing rival – was the world’s biggest company for much of 2019

Then, in late 2019, a new rival to Apple’s dominance emerged. And unlike all the other companies on this list, it wasn’t even listed in the United States.

The second biggest company in the world: Saudi Aramco

The second biggest company in the world is Saudi Aramco. The state-backed Saudi Arabian oil firm joined Riyadh’s stock exchange (the Tadawul) in late 2019, and instantly became the world’s most valuable stock, with a market cap of $1.9 trillion. At the time, Apple was worth $1.18 trillion.

Today, Aramco is worth $1.865 trillion, some distance behind Apple. However, it did hold the top spot again in May 2022, when it snuck ahead of the tech company.

Some took this as a sign of the traditional economy reasserting itself after years of tech dominance. After all, Saudi Aramco is the world’s top oil company by daily production and the biggest producer of carbon emissions of any company since 1965.

However, the move was short-lived, and the latter half of 2022 saw SA stock tumble down back below $2 trillion – and crucially, back below Apple.

The biggest tech companies in the world

After Apple, the three biggest tech companies in the world – and the biggest companies overall after Apple and Saudi Aramco – are Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon.

3. Microsoft (MSFT)

Microsoft is a US tech multinational that operates across the tech space, but is best known for its software, consumer electronics and cloud businesses. Some of its key products include:

  • In software, the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office suite of productivity applications and the Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers
  • In hardware, the Xbox game console and Surface line-up of touchscreen laptops and tablets
  • In cloud computing, Microsoft Azure

It also owns the social media platform LinkedIn.

Microsoft was the world’s most valuable tech company for much of the 1990s and 2000s, but its failure to capitalise on the rise of smartphones saw its share price struggle – and meant it lost out to Apple.

Since CEO Satya Nadella took over in 2014, though, the company’s fortunes have picked up again. This has been thanks in part to Nadella’s renewed focus on cloud computing, away from the hardware-based strategy of his predecessor Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft joined the $1 trillion club in June 2019. At the time, it was the most valuable company in the world, above Apple. It surpassed $2 trillion in June 2021 and has the achieved second-highest peak valuation of any company, at $2.576 trillion – ahead of Aramco’s $2.45 trillion, but below Apple’s $3 trillion.

4. Alphabet (GOOG)

The world’s fourth biggest company – and another member of the FAAMG group of big-cap US tech stocks – is Alphabet, the holding company for Google. It is the fourth-biggest tech company in the world by revenue, behind Amazon, Apple and Samsung Electronics (Microsoft is sixth).

The present-day Alphabet was formed in 2015 when the original company, Google, was restructured. The change saw the business split into two divisions: Google and ‘Other bets’, which represents the moonshot technologies Alphabet is investing in.

The move has seen Alphabet stock grow, briefly joining the $2 trillion club in 2021 – the fourth and final company on this list to do so. However, the stock was badly affected by the 2022 bear market, falling to almost half its peak value by the beginning of 2023.

In its September 2022 earnings call, GOOG announced 25% lower profits YoY, despite a rise in revenue.

5. Amazon (AMZN)

Amazon, the e-commerce giant, had an even worse 2022 than Alphabet. At the beginning of the year, the stock wasn’t far off its record high, with a market cap of $1.735 trillion in January 2022. 12 months later, it had dropped over 50% to $857 billion. Despite this, it remains the fifth-biggest company in the world.

In terms of revenue, Amazon dwarfs every other company on this list. Its earnings of $470 billion in 2022 put it second only to Walmart in terms of revenue-generating companies. But like Alphabet, falling profits have seen the company look into cost-cutting measures.

In 2018, Amazon became the second company to reach a value of $1 trillion, doing so just a month after Apple first broke the record. However, it has never reached $2 trillion, instead peaking at $1.9 trillion.

You may have noticed a missing FAAMG company here: Facebook, now traded as Meta. The stock has largely traded at a discount to the other tech majors, and a torrid 2022 saw it drop further away, falling 66% to a value of $319 billion.

The rest of the top 10 biggest companies

6. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK)

Sixth on our list of the biggest companies by market cap is Berkshire Hathaway, the investment powerhouse run by legendary investor Warren Buffett. The business chiefly operates as a holding company, with stakes in several stocks including:

  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Apple
  • The Coca-Cola Company

It also owns many businesses outright across several sectors, including insurance, manufacturing and retailing. Of these, insurance generates the most profit.

Buffett has chosen not to split BRK’s class-A shares, which has seen them become the world’s most expensive shares. In March 2022, a single BRK.A share cost over $500,000.

7. Visa (V)

The most valuable financial company in the world is Visa, which sees it land at number seven on our list.

Visa facilitates payments electronically, generally through its credit, debit and prepaid cards. It doesn’t provide these cards directly to consumers, instead providing financial institutions with Visa-branded products.

The company is dominant around the world (except in China, where China UnionPay is the leading player) with a 58% market share. Mastercard, its main rival, controls much of the remaining 42%.

Visa’s steady business largely protects it from the volatility seen by tech majors, and saw the company ride out 2022’s bear market without losing much of its market cap. It began 2022 worth $470 billion and was at the same level 12 months later.

8. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

Johnson & Johnson is a US-based multinational with a diverse set of products across medical devices, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals. Key JNJ brands include:

  • Band-Aid
  • Johnson’s Baby
  • Tylenol
  • Neutrogena
  • Acuvue

The company is one of just two to hold a AAA credit rating from the agency Standard & Poor’s, with the other being Microsoft. Like Visa, JNJ stock was largely unaffected by 2022’s selloff, with its market cap growing slightly over the year.

In its October 2022 earnings report, Johnson & Johnson reported YoY growth in both revenue and profit.

9. UnitedHealth (UNH)

UnitedHealth is the world’s biggest healthcare company. It offers healthcare and insurance services primarily to US consumers and is a constituent of the Dow Jones (Wall Street) stock index. The company is based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

UNH is a relative newcomer to the top 10 biggest companies in the world list. It has long been a blue-chip stock, with a market cap of around $200 billion in 2019, but saw solid growth in 2020 and 2021. That, plus the selloff elsewhere, was enough to see the company enter the top ten in 2022.

10. ExxonMobil (XOM)

When Apple first became the biggest company in the world in 2011, it was oil supermajor ExxonMobil that got dethroned. And for the next few years, XOM held its place as the world’s second-biggest stock.

However, a long-term oil bear market in 2014 and 2015 – and again in 2020 – saw its value slide. That is, until the sharp rise in oil markets throughout 2021 and into 2022 saw its profits, and share price, grow.

Today, ExxonMobil is back near its record high, set before the 2008 crash when oil prices were sky-high.

How to trade blue-chip stocks

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The biggest companies in the world by revenue

However, market cap isn’t the only method of calculating the biggest company in the world. Here are the biggest publicly traded businesses in 2022 as ranked by revenue instead, according to Fortune:

Rank

Company Name

Ticker

Country

 Revenue ($million)

1

Walmart

NYSE:WMT

US

  572,754

2

Amazon

NASDAQ:AMZN

US

  469,822

3

Saudi Aramco

Tadawhul:2222

Saudi Arabia

  400,399

4

Apple

NASDAQ:AAPL

US

  365,817

5

Volkswagen

FWB:VOW

Germany

  295,820

6

CVS Health

NYSE:CVS

US

  292,111

7

UnitedHealth Group

NYSE:UNH

US

  287,597

8

Exxon Mobil

NYSE:XOM

US

  285,640

9

Toyota Motor

TYO:7203

Japan

  279,338

10

Berkshire Hathaway

NYSE:BRK-B

US

  276,094

As you can see, there are some notable differences between the two lists. While Amazon, Saudi Aramco, Apple, UnitedHealth, ExxonMobil and Berkshire Hathaway are on both, some major revenue earners don’t make the cut when it comes to market cap.

Walmart (WMT)

Walmart generates more money than any other company in the world, but its market cap of $390 billion puts it 16th in terms of stocks by market cap. In fact, it is the only company in the world’s top 20 with annual revenues that exceed its market cap.

Volkswagen (VOW) and Toyota Motors (7203)

The biggest European and Japanese companies by revenue respectively, car manufacturers Volkswagen and Toyota generated combined earnings in excess of $550 billion according to Fortune, yet VOW’s market cap is €75 billion ($79 billion) and Toyota’s is Y30 trillion ($231 billion).

CVS Health (CVS)

US-based healthcare company CVS health is the final company that ranks in the top 10 of revenue but not market cap, with a total value of $117 billion.

So why do Walmart, Volkswagen, Toyota and CVS not rank as high on the stock markets? There are numerous reasons, but one significant clue lies in their profits. Walmart may be first on Fortune’s list by revenue, but it’s 59th by profit. Toyota is 19th, Volkswagen 38th and CVS 107th.

The most profitable companies are Saudi Aramco, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Alphabet and Microsoft – and all are also the most valuable.

The biggest EU companies

At the outset of 2023, the biggest companies in the European Union (EU) by market cap were LVMH, Novo Nordisk and ASML.

1. LVMH

LVMH stands for Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy and is a French luxury goods multinational. It owns multiple subsidiaries, including Christian Dior, Sephora, Marc Jacobs, Dom Perignon, Marc Jacobs, Tiffany & Co. and TAG Heuer. LVMH’s CEO, Bernard Arnault, became the world’s richest man in 2023.

The stock has a market cap of €393 billion ($426 billion).

2. Novo Nordisk (NVO)

Novo Nordisk is a Danish pharmaceutical company that specialises in diabetes drugs and devices. It is headquartered in Bagsvaerd, with production facilities in nine countries. The company has several products, including Tresiba, Levemir and NovoSeven. NVO stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

NVO has a market cap of $300 billion.

3. ASML (ASML)

ASML stands for Advanced Semiconductor Materials Lithography. It is a Dutch tech company that makes photolithography machines, which are used in the production of computer chips. It is the main supplier to the semiconductor industry.

ASML stock has a dual listing on the Euronext Amsterdam and NYSE, with a market cap of €246 billion ($266 billion).

The biggest UK companies

At the outset of 2023, the biggest UK companies by market cap were AstraZeneca, Shell and Unilever.

1. AstraZeneca (AZN)

AstraZeneca is a UK-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology based at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. It is best known for its role in developing the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine but has numerous drugs across several major diseases.

In January 2023, AZN has a market cap of £173 billion ($211 billion).

2. Shell (SHEL)

Shell is an oil ‘supermajor’, involved in every level of the oil and gas industry: including exploration, production, refinement and transport. It is the UK’s biggest oil company, ahead of BP, and the world’s 15th biggest company by revenue.

SHEL has a market cap of £162 billion ($197 billion).

3. Unilever (ULVR)

Unilever is a British multinational that sells consumer goods. Some of its biggest brands are Dove, Knorr, Lynx, Ben & Jerry’s, Persil, Magnum and Hellman’s. It used to be split across the UK and Netherlands, but in 2020 unified under a single London entity.

ULVR stock has a total value of £105 billion ($129 billion).

Learn more about the UK’s biggest companies.

Biggest company FAQs

What is the biggest car company in the world?

By market cap, the biggest car company in the world is Tesla. Despite trading well below its record highs, the EV company is still above Toyota, BYD, Porsche and Volkswagen. In January 2023 the company is worth $375 billion – less than a quarter of its peak of $1.23 trillion.

By revenues, the biggest car company in the world is Volkswagen. By profit, it is Mercedes-Benz.

Learn more about Porsche’s recent IPO.

Is Amazon the biggest company in the world?

No, Amazon isn’t the biggest company in the world. By market cap, it lands at 5th on the list, behind Apple, Saudi Aramco, Microsoft and Alphabet. According to Fortune, however, it is the second biggest company in the world when measured by revenue and employee numbers.

Learn more about what Amazon owns.

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