Special Report

Famous Brands Americans Don't Know

In the U.S.-centric world most Americans live in, all the greatest and most valuable brands were created here. Several studies by brand valuation experts show that to be true. But some of the world’s most valuable brands are not only owned by companies outside the United States, they are brands that many Americans know nothing about and may never have heard of. 24/7 Wall St. has taken a look at some of these brands and found that the U.S. is not the only brand capital.

U.S. brands that dominate the top spots of most brand valuation lists include Apple, Google, Microsoft, Marlboro, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and IBM. These top brands fall into one of two categories. They are either technology or consumer products brands. They are also all global. Apple, Microsoft and IBM have tremendous overseas sales. McDonald’s has restaurants around the world.

The most valuable brands owned by companies outside the U.S. fall into two different categories. The first is financial services and banks. The most widely known and highly valued of these brands have also been around for some time. RBS, the largest bank in Canada, is more than a century old. So is Sberbank in Russia.

The second set of famous overseas brands are cellular phone companies. By their nature they are relatively new, because the wireless revolution is barely 20 years old. China Mobile was incorporated in 1997. Japan’s NTT DoCoMo was formed in 1992.

To pick the most valuable brands that Americans have not heard of, 24/7 Wall St. relied on the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2012. We ranked the brands that made the list based on gross domestic product of country of origin, and then picked the most valuable brands from the eleven largest countries based on that GDP measurement. In order to exclude well-known brands in America, those with very large market share in the U.S were excluded. That meant Toyota, BMW and Louis Vuitton did not make the cut.

These are the most famous brands Americans don’t know.
11. Movistar
> Brand value: $17.1 billion
> Country: Spain
> National GDP: $1.5 trillion
> Industry: Telecom

Movistar is the mobile phone operation of Spain’s primary telecom company Telefónica S.A. Its parent company currently has nearly 314 million customers. Like other European nations that once had colonies in Latin America, Movistar does business in Argentina and Mexico. Movistar has business units that market wireless broadband; Internet TV, which includes the new Google TV product; software, which includes Microsoft Windows powered portable devices; and hardware devices, including Apple’s iPad.

Also Read: America’s Most Expensive Neighborhoods

10. RBC
> Brand value: $17.2 billion
> Country: Canada
> National GDP: $1.7 trillion
> Industry: Financial services

RBC, originally called the Royal Bank of Canada, has been in business since 1864. Forbes lists it as the largest company in the Canada. Like most extremely big financial services firms in the largest countries by GDP, RBC provides services ranging from consumer savings to underwriting for public companies. One of the major ways that RBC promotes its presence as a global firm is via a comparison with banks around the world as measured by market cap. Based on this measure, RBC statistics put it in 12th place globally, just behind Citigroup, and Bank of America. RBC, which has more than 80,000 employees, reports its financial results in Canadian dollars. In the quarter that ended July 31, RBC had record net income of $2.2 billion, up from $1.7 billion the year before.

9. ICICI Bank
> Brand value: $12.7 billion
> Country: India
> National GDP: $1.8 trillion
> Industry: Financial services

Other than the State Bank of India, ICICI is the largest financial services firm in the world’s second most populous country. It had consolidated total assets of more than $91 billion as of March 31. ICICI operates similar to the way J.P. Morgan or Citigroup do in the U.S. All have large consumer banking, business banking, investment bank, wealth management, and underwriting operations.  ICICI has driven part of its growth through joint ventures with companies based outside India. ICICI Prudential Life Insurance is a joint venture between ICICI Bank and U.K. insurance giant Prudential plc. ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company is a joint venture with Canada-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited.

8. Sberbank
> Brand value: $10.6 billion
> Country: Russia
> National GDP: $1.8 trillion
> Industry: Financial services

Sberbank was founded in 1841 in Russia. As of 2010, more than 60% of its shares were owned by The Central Bank of the Russian Federation (CBR), which makes the government the controlling shareholder. Sberbank serves virtually every corner of Russia through its network of roughly 19,000 branches. The firm is in the midst of a plan to transform itself into a company with state of the art technology, a much larger presence overseas, and what it calls a “client-oriented model to service individual and corporate clients.” This set of programs was approved in October 2008 and is scheduled to be completed in 2014.

7. Telecom Italia
> Brand value: $9.6 billion
> Country: Italy
> National GDP: $2.2 trillion
> Industry: Telecom

Telecom Italia traces its roots back to the original Italian national telephone service, which was created in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, the company’s two largest markets are its domestic one and its operations in Latin America. Like many national telecom providers similar to AT&T, Telecom Italia provides fixed line and mobile connections and has moved into the television and broadband markets. In Latin America, Telecom Italia operates in the two largest countries by population, Brazil and Argentina, and the region provides more than a third of the corporation’s revenue. Based on a Forbes analysis, Telecom Italia is the sixth largest company in Italy. In the first nine months of this year, it had revenue of more than 22 billion euros.

Also Read: America’s Oldest Brands

6. Vodafone
> Brand value: $43.0 billion
> Country: United Kingdom
> National GDP: $2.4 trillion
> Industry: Telecom

Vodafone Group Plc was founded in 1985 as a small mobile operator in Newbury, U.K. Since then, it has expanded well beyond its home market. One of its largest holdings is a 45% share in Verizon Wireless. Vodafone and co-owner Verizon Communications recently received a huge financial return on their ownership positions as Verizon Wireless issued an $8.5 billion dividend to the two partners. Vodafone reports that it has more than 407 million customers around the world in  more than 30 countries and ventures with networks in another 50. Its Asian operations include businesses in India, Malaysia, and The Philippines. In Europe, Vodafone has operations in Germany and Hungary. In its 2011 fiscal year, Vodafone had revenue of over 45.8 billion pounds.
5. Petrobras
> Brand value: $10.6 billion
> Country: Brazil
> National GDP: $2.5 trillion
> Industry: Oil and Gas

Petrobras says that it is the fifth largest energy company in the world, making it similar in size to Chevron and BP plc. Petrobras was founded in 1953 by the Brazilian government, which still owns 50% of the total shares. It is the largest company in the country. Outside the traditional oil and gas productive industries, Petrobras also operates in the  biofuels and alternative energy sectors. According to the Financial Times, Petrobras has the largest capital spending budget of any corporation in the world at $236.5 billion. Petrobras needs the money. It is the largest deepwater oil producer in the world with huge reserves off the Brazilian coast miles beneath the Atlantic.

4. Hermes
> Brand value: $19.2 billion
> Country: France
> National GDP: $2.7 trillion
> Industry: Fashion

Hermes was founded by Thierry Hermes in the 1830s. The company currently makes and markets a large line of luxury fashion goods, accessories, watches and purses made from materials as exotic as crocodile. Hermes has stores throughout the world and has aggressively moved into emerging markets such as China, where it has stores in 17 cities; India, where it has locations in three cities; and Indonesia, where it has locations in two. Its reputation among luxury brands helped drive extraordinary growth in the first half of 2012 during which revenue rose 21.9% to 1.6 billion euros, according to the company’s financial statements. Watch sales were a significant part of the improvement with a 31% rise in revenue for the period.

Also Read: 10 Brands Losing the Most Value

3. Deutsche Telekom
> Brand value: $26.8 billion
> Country: Germany
> National GDP: $3.6 trillion
> Industry: Telecom

Deutsche Telekom has a larger worldwide base than most other global telecom companies. While AT&T and Verizon do not have huge operations overseas, Deutsche Telekom owns T-Mobile, the No. 4 wireless provider in the U.S. T-Mobile will soon merge with MetroPCS, pending approval. Deutsche Telekom also owns T-Mobile Netherlands, and operations in Hungary, Greece, Austria, and much of Eastern Europe. According to the company, it had 236,000 employees at the end of 2011 and operated in 50 countries. Revenue in 2011 was approximately 58 billion euros. As cellular penetration in nations such as Germany and the U.S. reaches saturation point, large telecom providers such as Deutsche Telekom have to find new avenues to increase sales. Like many of its global peers, Deutsche Telekom has pressed into 4G technology to find new sources of revenue.

2. NTT DoCoMo
> Brand value: $16.0 billion
> Country: Japan
> National GDP: $5.8 trillion
> Industry: Telecom

NTT DoCoMo was spun out of Japan telecommunications company NTT in 1992. The offshoot company was created to hold the mobile assets of the former parent company, which once had a market monopoly similar to the one AT&T had in the U.S. until the 1970s. DoCoMo launched its first digital network in 1993 and has added 60 million customers since. It claims that it has about half of the entire wireless market in Japan. Two companies have emerged as major competitors: KDDI and Softbank. Softbank recently said it would buy a majority interest in Sprint-Nextel, making it the first of the Japanese wireless companies to make a substantial move into the American market.

1. China Mobile  
> Brand value: $47.0 billion
> Country: China
> National GDP: $7.2 trillion
> Industry: Telecom

China Mobile is the leading wireless services provider in the People’s Republic. The company says it has  both the world’s largest wireless network and the world’s largest wireless customer base. That’s because China Mobile has roughly 700 million customers, which is well over twice the number of people who live in the U.S. China Mobile is a relatively new company, but so is the global wireless industry in general. First incorporated in September 1997, China Mobile has plans to shepherd its customer base to 4G ultra-fast broadband systems just as Verizon Wireless and AT&T are doing in the U.S.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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