Global Top 100 companies: Saudi Aramco spoils US tech party

Peter Kasahara Partner and Leader PwC Digital and Customer Centric Transformation, PwC Switzerland 07 Jul 2020

Our report «Global Top 100 companies 2020» lists the global ranking of the top 100 public companies by market capitalisation – with a special focus on the disruptive first quarter of 2020. Seven of the top ten are US companies, but Saudi Aramco took first place in a landslide, due to its historical IPO in December 2019.

What does it take to be a top 100 company? A market capitalisation of at least $86 billion. To reach first place, however, it takes $1.6 trillion. PwC’s report «Global Top 100 companies 2020» lists the largest public companies by their market capitalisation in dollars as of 31 March 2020 and shows how regional and industry dynamics are changing. To evaluate the Covid-19 impact, data has also been analysed for the period from December 31 to March 31.

First quarter of 2020 wipes out gains

At the end of March 2020, the market capitalisation of the Global Top 100 companies amounted to $21.5 trillion. Year-over-year, this valuation increased by 2%, the lowest rate since 2016. From March to December 2019 these companies’ market capitalisation climbed by 20%, before decreasing by 15% in the first three months of 2020 as Covid-19 took hold. In this year’s report, the rankings are largely similar to previous years – with one big exception. While the four tech giants Microsoft, Apple, and Alphabet have kept the leading positions for several years, Saudi Aramco’s IPO in December 2019 – the largest IPO ever – has catapulted the company directly to the top. Since going public, it has been the world’s largest company by market capitalisation; at the time of the IPO, its market valuation was a staggering double of the leading Microsoft’s valuation in March 2019.

Besides this significant «outlier», much has remained the same. With seven out of the top ten, the US is still home to the largest companies, and the «big four» tech titans are a league of their own. Apart from Saudi Aramco, only two non-US companies are in the top ten – the Chinese internet leaders Alibaba and Tencent. Technology and e-commerce are king.

Even with the Covid-19 disruption, the market capitalisation of Saudi Aramco amounted to $1.6 trillion as of March 2020, and Microsoft and Apple each exceeded $1 trillion. With a market capitalisation of $971bn, Amazon was close behind. Alibaba moved from seventh to sixth place, exchanging positions with Facebook and lagging behind Alphabet’s capitalisation (fifth place) by $277bn. With a market capitalisation of $443bn, Berkshire Hathaway fell from fifth to ninth place nine; Johnson & Johnson narrowly managed to stay in the top ten with $346bn.

Technology and e-commerce are king

Technology continues to dominate. The breakdown of the top ten includes five tech companies, two consumer service companies (Amazon and Alibaba), one financial company (Berkshire Hathaway), one healthcare corporation (Johnson & Johnson), and one oil & gas company (Saudi Aramco). Regarding the top 100, technology was also the largest sector in terms of combined market capitalisation ($6.3 trillion) for the fifth year in a row. In the three months prior to March 2020 all Global Top 100 companies outperformed their respective industry indices, as larger companies were in favour. Not surprisingly, the oil & gas sector was hit hardest by the widespread impact and uncertainties of Covid-19.

Only ten companies included in the Global Top 100 saw an increase in market capitalisation from December 2019 to March 2020. Technology, health care and consumer goods corporations experienced the largest gains, most notably Tesla, Netflix and Gilead Sciences. The largest losers were financials and oil & gas companies, such as Citigroup and Exxon Mobil Corporation.

To single out one company, Netflix went from being a top ten decliner from March to December 2019 to the second biggest riser in the three months prior to March 2020, profiting from changed consumer behaviour during the lockdown. 

US dominates, China provides unicorns

With 57 companies in the Global Top 100, the US continues to be the economic powerhouse. US companies now represent 61% of the combined valuation, up from 51% eleven years ago and down from 63% one year ago. Greater China, the second most represented country with 14 companies, saw a decrease from 15% of the total capitalisation in March 2019 to 14% in March 2020. Europe features 21 companies in the Global Top 100; they experienced the most significant reduction in valuation in the three months leading up to March 2020, with their total market capitalisation decreasing by 25% ($956bn).

On a separate subject, the outlook for unicorns remains positive in the medium term, despite the recent market turbulences. Unicorns typically are disruptors that take advantage of new technologies and tap into changing consumer trends; Covid-19 might accelerate such changes and trends. As of the end of March 2020, 50 of the top 100 unicorns were from the US, in line with the overall list. China provided an additional 26 unicorns, down from 31 in 2019, but still a significantly larger proportion than China’s representation in the Global Top 100. This indicates that in due time, more and more companies from that country will enter the big league.

And Switzerland? Three Swiss heavyweights can be found in the Global Top 100. Nestlé (13) and Roche (14) are in the top 20, while Novartis holds 25th place. In terms of their combined market capitalisation, the picture is even more impressive: Switzerland takes fourth place.

Key findings

  • $21.5 trillion combined market capitalisation of the Global Top 100 companies (March 2020), which is an increase of 2% from March 2019
  • From March to December 2019 the Global Top 100 market capitalisation climbed by 20%, before decreasing by 15% in Q1 2020
  • Saudi Aramco’s IPO catapulted the company directly to the top spot
  • The technology sector dominates; financials and oil & gas lag
  • 7 out of the top ten are US companies
  • 57 out of the Global Top 100 are US companies
  • With 14 companies, China is the second largest country group represented
  • 14 new entrants, including 8 from the US
  • Unicorns from China are on the rise
  • 3 Swiss companies in the top 25
  • European companies suffered the heaviest valuation declines in Q1 2020


Contact us

Peter Kasahara

Peter Kasahara

Managing Partner Digital Intelligence and Customer Centric Transformation, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 42 15