- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. dethroned Exxon Mobil Corp. to win back first place on the 2007 Fortune 500 list after a confluence of economic forces led American companies to their most profitable year in the compilation’s 53-year history.

The giant retailer posted a more than 11 percent increase in revenue to $351.1 billion and profits of $11.3 billion, according to the magazine’s annual ranking of the nation’s largest companies. The discounter has topped the list five of the past six years.

Fortune compiled the rankings based on companies’ 2006 revenue. Nipping at Wal-Mart’s heels was 2006 title-holder Exxon Mobil, which had $347.3 billion in revenue and the highest profit in history by a U.S. company, reaching $39.5 billion.

Collectively, the Fortune 500 raked in profits of $785 billion in 2006, the highest since the list’s inception in 1954. It marked a nearly 30 percent jump over 2005, and dwarfed the previous record of $444 billion, reached in 2000 at the peak of the technology boom.

Fortune magazine cited a convergence of various economic factors including mild labor costs, a weakening U.S. dollar and soaring productivity for the record gains.

Oil and automobile companies nabbed several of this year’s top 10 spots, with General Motors Corp. holding on to No. 3, followed by Chevron Corp. in fourth place, ConocoPhillips in fifth and then Ford Motor Co. at No. 7.

General Electric Co. ranked sixth, with Citigroup Inc. placing two spots behind at No. 8. Bank of America Corp. broke into the top 10 at No. 9, followed by insurer American International Group Inc.

Despite recent difficulties negotiating labor union contracts and the collapse of its $9.8 billion hostile bid for Delta Air Lines Inc., US Airways Group Inc. posted the largest gains on the list, climbing 208 spots to No. 216. Google Inc. rose 112 spots to No. 241.

Car rental company Avis Budget Group Inc. dropped the most, plummeting 291 spots to No. 405.

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