A Visual History of the Largest Companies by Market Cap (1999-Today)

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by visualcapitalist

A Visual History of the Largest Companies by Market Cap (1999-Today)

The macro narrative that underlies the market is constantly under revision.

While this is partially a function of shifts in investor sentiment, it’s also driven by game-changing events as well as much more structural market forces.

For example, how does the macro narrative change after a commodity price crash? What about when the unprecedented scale of technology is truly understood by the market?

An Evolving Narrative

In this week’s chart, we look at how the big picture narrative has changed over time by using a very simple approach.

We have visualized the market capitalizations of the 10 largest public companies in the world over five-year intervals from 1999 until today, and it gives us a series of snapshots of what the market was “thinking” during these specific periods.

Not only is it evident as certain industries rise to prominence, but there are also some interesting individual stories to follow. We can see iconic companies – such as Apple – ascend into the public consciousness, while others fall off the radar completely.

Year Description Top Company Who Dominates Top 10?
1999 Dotcom Bubble Microsoft ($583B) Five tech companies in the mix
2004 Post-Bubble GE ($319B) Diverse mix of companies by industry
2009 Financial Crisis PetroChina ($367B) Six non-U.S. companies make list
2014 $100 Oil Apple ($560B) Last year for oil companies, tech starts ascending
2019 Big Tech Era Microsoft ($1,050B) Seven companies are tech

The composition of the top 10 changes in each of the snapshots above, and this simple approach helps capture the market narrative for each timeframe.

During the Dotcom Bubble, you can see that half of the list was dominated by tech companies. This was short-lived, and the years 2004, 2009, and 2014 have much more diverse lists.

You can also see the impact of the financial crisis on U.S. company valuations. In 2009, there is an equal distribution of Chinese and American companies. Royal Dutch Shell (UK/Netherlands) and Petrobras (Brazil) help round out the top 10.

Finally, over the last five years, you can see the impact of lower oil prices and the growing scale of tech. Back in 2014, Exxon Mobil was the second largest company in the world by a solid margin, but today it’s been displaced by companies like Facebook, Amazon, Tencent, and Alibaba.

The Big Tech Era

Here is the current top 10 list of the world’s largest companies by market cap:

Rank Company Industry Market Cap
#1 🇺🇸 Microsoft Tech $1,050 billion
#2 🇺🇸 Amazon Tech $943 billion
#3 🇺🇸 Apple Tech $920 billion
#4 🇺🇸 Alphabet Tech $778 billion
#5 🇺🇸 Facebook Tech $546 billion
#6 🇺🇸 Berkshire Hathaway Diversified $507 billion
#7 🇨🇳 Alibaba Tech $435 billion
#8 🇨🇳 Tencent Tech $431 billion
#9 🇺🇸 Visa Financial $379 billion
#10 🇺🇸 Johnson & Johnson Consumer Goods $376 billion

In total, the five biggest tech giants brought in a combined $801.5 billion in revenue last year, and $139 billion in net income.

The Staying Power of Microsoft

With a valuation today of just over $1 trillion, Microsoft is again the world’s largest company by market capitalization.

In this way, the above lists come full circle, since Microsoft was also the biggest company in 1999.

While the software giant experienced short periods where it did drop out of favor, Microsoft was the only company to make the list in our five snapshots above.




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