A number of America’s largest private companies are big enough in terms of revenue that had they been public they would have placed in the upper ranks of the Fortune 500. As a matter of fact, the largest private company, Cargill, has revenue that could put it in the top 10.
Large private companies are not much different from their publicly held counterparts. The industries they operate in are the same industries. Similarly, some companies on this list employ more than 50,000 people and some even more than 100,000 workers. They are as much of an economic force as GE (NYSE: GE) or Ford (NYSE: F). The main difference is that private companies are shielded from the immediate pressures of shareholders, who often demand short-term results — such as in the case of quarterly reports — and can drive stock prices in response to daily events.
Once again, Industrials & Chemicals conglomerates Cargill and Koch Industries topped the list and were far and away the leaders with a difference in revenue of over $50 Billion above third place State Farm. The top 15 had a more balanced distribution of industries, although Insurance giants certainly staked their claim near the top, with four companies in the top 15: State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, and New York Life. The service industry as a whole was well represented, holding 7 of the top 15 spots. Other industries represented in the list were consulting, accounting, real estate, technology, consumer goods and healthcare.
This partially mirrors the industries in which the largest public companies operate. Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) and DuPont (NYSE: DD) in chemicals; and Prudential (NYSE: PRU), MetLife (NYSE: MET) and United Healthcare (NYSE: UNH) in insurance. Other companies such as IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) also have equivalents among the 100 largest private companies in America.
The very largest private and public companies share another characteristic. They are so large that a top few dominate their field in terms of revenue, with other companies often dwarfed in comparison.
The most glaring revelation about the top of the pack is the portion of revenue these companies control. 3% of companies account for 18% of total revenues in the PrivCo 100. Additionally, 15% of companies account for half of total revenue generated. The top 50 companies reported revenues above $11.4 Billion or greater this year. This represents an increase of almost 23% in total revenue over the top 50 from last year.
The largest Fortune 500 company, Walmart, reported sales of $486 billion last year. Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM), the second largest, posted sales of $382 billion, already a $100 billion difference. The size of public companies in terms of sales drops off quickly. Verizon (NYSE: VZ), the 15th largest company on the Fortune 500, reported revenue of $127 billion last year, only a third of Exxon’s.
Perhaps the biggest effect on the U.S. and global economy during 2014 was the dramatic volatility seen in the commodities markets, especially with regards to Oil & Gas (decrease of 50%). Furthermore, U.S. companies seemed to be well insulated from economic/political turmoil that unfolded in the Ukraine which greatly affected their European counterparts during this time. In the United States in particular, unemployment began its decline and fell below 6% for the first time since the financial crisis. Coupled with interest rates remaining low from the hesitation of the Federal Reserve, companies found access to capital with relative ease and this resulted in a rise in the price of bonds by nearly 6% during the period.
Nearly every factor that affects the global economy can influence public companies as well. Large public energy companies such as Chevron (NYSE: CVX) watched their sales decimated by lower oil prices, a trend that continued in 2015. For companies such as Apple whose sales concentrated in the United States and China, nearly full U.S. employment has induced sales. The U.S. economy — with jobless rate of 5% and more than 200,000 jobs added in recent months — has created more consumers and a market primed for the sale of consumer goods — and consumption makes up more than two-thirds of U.S. GDP.
This is the 24/7 Wall St.’s 100 Largest Private Companies in America.
Methodology: PrivCo screened through its proprietary Private Company Financial Database, which has information on over 850,000 private companies, to rank the PrivCo 100. We ranked the top 100 privately-held companies in the United States based on 2014 revenue. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the top 100 private companies in the United States.
And now, the 2015 PrivCo 100, America’s largest private companies: