Global Top 100 Companies: for US tech giants, the sky is the limit

Peter Kasahara Managing Partner Digital Intelligence and Customer Centric Transformation, PwC Switzerland 28 May 2021

What does it take to be a top 100 company? A market capitalisation of at least $128bn, 62% more than last year. For the first time, a company surpassed the valuation of $2 trillion. Our report «Global Top 100 companies 2021» lists the global ranking of the top 100 public companies by market capitalisation and shows how regional and industry dynamics are changing. One thing is clear: tech is the undisputed king.

Since the pandemic-induced declines seen in early 2020, global equity markets have not only recovered but have surged to record highs – supported by government and central bank policies designed to mitigate the economic and social havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Valuations increasing across the board

PwC’s report «Global Top 100 companies 2021» lists the largest public companies by their market capitalisation in dollars as at 31 March 2021 and compares their ranking with the previous year. The market capitalisation of the Global Top 100 companies amounts to a record-breaking $31.7 trillion. This value increased by an impressive $10.3 trillion or 48% since last year, but still underperformed the MSCI World Index, which gained 58% in the same period.

Looking back two years, the total market capitalisation of the Global Top 100 companies has increased by 51%, compared to a performance of the MSCI World Index of 33%. A total of 99 companies in the Global Top 100 saw gains in their market valuations in the year to March 2021. Seven of the top ten companies are based in the US, and technology remains the undisputed king.

7 tech giants amongst the Top 10

The five US tech giants – Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook – are in a league of their own. Their dominance is broken only by Saudi Aramco, which takes second place after its IPO in December 2019 had catapulted the company directly to the top of last year’s ranking. Besides Saudi Aramco, only two non-US companies made it into the top ten – the Chinese internet leaders Tencent and Alibaba.

Apple resumed its position as the world’s most valuable company with a staggering market capitalisation of $2.05 trillion, a year-on-year increase of $938bn or 84%, thus surpassing the $2 trillion mark. Saudi Aramco follows with a capitalisation of $1.92 trillion; Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet are valued at more than $1 trillion each. Berkshire Hathaway, in tenth place, has a capitalisation of $588bn, which would have secured the company the top position in 2014. Tesla was the clear outperformer among the top 100 with an astonishing 565% increase in its market capitalisation, from $96bn in March 2020 (83rd) to $641bn in March 2021 (8th).

«During the pandemic the importance of digital transformation became even more apparent, which is reflected by the "Global Top 100" ranking. Large companies in particular, as well as those that are agile by nature such as technology companies, grew strongly despite COVID-19. Among others, they were able to benefit from new technologies and many years of continuous investment in their digital transformation.»

Peter Kasahara Managing Partner Digital Intelligence and Customer Centric Transformation, PwC Switzerland

All sectors ahead

All sectors represented in the top 100 saw massive year-on-year gains in market capitalisation – ranging from 25% (healthcare) to 75% (basic materials). Technology continues to be the largest sector in terms of capitalisation ($10.5tn) for the sixth year in a row, and Global Top 100 technology companies experienced a 71% increase in valuation compared to March 2020.

Cyclicals, industrials and basic materials outperformed other sectors, while the worst performing sectors were healthcare, energy and utilities. Basic materials and utilities are the least significant sectors among the Global Top 100 companies, with capitalisations of $309bn and $148bn respectively.

Winners and losers – and Switzerland

With 59 companies in the Global Top 100, US companies now represent 65% of the combined valuation, up from 61% one year ago. The 73 companies represented by the US and China together – China being the second most important country with 14 companies – account for 77% of the total market capitalisation of all Global Top 100 companies.

Further down the ranking, the United Kingdom saw the largest net decrease in the number of companies in the Global Top 100, resulting in the country falling from 5th to 10th position. While BHP Billiton, Boeing, Siemens, Softbank and Volkswagen returned to the top 100 list, some of the 12 companies that departed were HSBC, China Life, BP and IBM. Among the eight new entrants are Sony, Starbucks and T-Mobile.

Three Swiss heavyweights can be found in the Global Top 100. In 2020, all of them were in the top 25. This year, Nestlé holds 26th place, while Roche (29th) and Novartis (46th) fell behind. However, in terms of their combined market capitalisation the picture remains impressive: Switzerland takes fourth place after the US, China and Saudi Arabia.

Explore the Global Top 100 companies by region:

Global Top 100 companies: explore the data
close

Greater China

$21,075m

Market Cap (31 March 2021)

Alibaba Group Holding-Sp ADR

7

Rank

$471.7m

Market Cap
(31 March 2021)

1.7%

% Change Mkt
Cap (19-18)

Tencent Holdings Ltd

7

Rank

$471.7m

Market Cap
(31 March 2021)

1.7%

% Change Mkt
Cap (19-18)

Ind & Comm Bk of China-A

7

Rank

$471.7m

Market Cap
(31 March 2021)

1.7%

% Change Mkt
Cap (19-18)
Source: Bloomberg and PwC analysis

Spotlight on unicorns

Unicorns – privately held start-up companies valued at over $1bn – are typically disruptors that take advantage of new technologies and tap into changing consumer trends. COVID-19 appears to have accelerated these secular shifts, which bodes well for unicorns. Similar to the Global Top 100, the US dominates the top 100 unicorns, representing approximately half of the list in terms of the number of companies and value. China provides an additional 23 of the top 100 unicorns, down from 26 in 2020, and accounts for 35% of the total top 100 unicorns in terms of value.

The Chinese internet company ByteDance (the parent company of TikTok) maintains its position as the most valuable unicorn with a valuation of $140bn, an 87% increase from March 2020. ByteDance would be positioned alongside Siemens and Bank of China (90th and 91st place respectively) in the Global Top 100 if it were a public company. No other unicorn meets the $128bn capitalisation required to make it onto the top 100 list.

«Loose monetary policy has provided inexpensive and abundant liquidity, which supports growth investing. This clearly plays to the benefit of unicorns.»

Peter Kasahara Managing Partner Digital Intelligence and Customer Centric Transformation, PwC Switzerland

Key findings

  • Switzerland takes the impressive fourth place after the US, China, and Saudi Arabia in terms of the combined market capitalization of companies in the Global Top 100
  • $31.7 trillion in combined market capitalisation of the Global Top 100 companies (March 2021), which is an increase of $10.3 trillion or 48% on March 2020
  • 99 out of 100 companies saw gains in market valuation
  • 59 out of the Global Top 100 companies are from the US
  • 7 out of the top ten companies are from the US
  • For the first time, a company surpassed a valuation of $2 trillion (Apple)
  • Saudi Aramco spoils the US tech party with its second place
  • The technology sector dominates; healthcare, energy, and utilities lag behind
  • China is the second largest country represented with 14 companies
  • 13 new entrants, including 6 from the US
  • 3 Swiss companies in the top 50
  • European companies lag behind their peers from the US, China and the rest of the world in terms of increases in capitalisation
  • Unicorns took advantage of the accelerated digital transformation

 

Contact us

Peter Kasahara

Peter Kasahara

Managing Partner Digital Intelligence and Customer Centric Transformation, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 42 15