- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2002

NEW YORK (Agence France-Presse) Retail giant Wal-Mart has overtaken Exxon Mobil at the top of the Fortune 500 list of global companies, becoming the first service company to be No. 1, the magazine reported yesterday.

The Arkansas-based retail giant, with $220 billion in revenue last year, was the No. 1 firm ahead of U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil, with $192 billion, and General Motors, with $177 billion.

The top 10 global firms included six from the United States including, ironically, Enron Corp., which ranked sixth even though it collapsed late last year amid revelations of massive accounting irregularities.

"The Global 500 measures revenues, not virtue," said the magazine's Paola Hjelt, who noted that Enron still reported $139 billion in 2001 revenue.

The No. 4 firm on the list was oil group BP of Britain, one of three European companies in the top 10.

Ranked fifth was U.S.-based Ford Motor Co., followed by Enron, Royal Dutch Shell Group (Netherlands/Britain), U.S.-based General Electric and Toyota Motor Co. the only Japanese firm in the top 10.

"Change is a constant in the Global 500," the magazine said. "In 1995, the four biggest companies on the list were Japanese Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Itochu, and Sumitomo as were six of the top 10. This year, only one Japanese company, Toyota, makes the cut. In a reversal of fortune, the top three positions are held by American companies Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and General Motors."

The number of U.S. firms in the Global 500 increased from 151 in 1995 to 197 this year. The EU nations had 143 companies of the 500 on this year's list, down from 155 in 1995. But the EU's share of Global 500 revenue inched up from 28 percent to 30 percent.

China's position has also risen on the list, with 11 of the top 500 companies, compared with just three in 1995.

The largest Chinese firm on the list was oil giant Sinopec (No. 68), followed by State Power (77) and China National Petroleum (83).

But Chinese firms accounted for less than 2 percent of the revenue of the 500 companies. And Japan, despite its woes, still had the top 20 companies in Asia.

Fortune noted that many companies on the list showed slumping revenue and earnings as the global economy stalled last year.

Of the world's 500 largest companies, 297 saw profits fall. Total earnings in 2001 were less than half what they were the previous year, by far the largest one-year drop since Fortune first published a Global 500 list in 1995 that included both the service and industrial companies, the magazine said.

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