Special Report

The 20 Most Profitable Companies in the World

15. Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
> Net income from cont. operations: $19.5 billion
> Country: United States
> Industry: Multi-sector holdings
> Revenue: $182.2 billion

Berkshire Hathaway, led by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is America’s most profitable conglomerate. Berkshire Hathaway had assets of nearly $485 billion, as of its last annual report, against just more than $260 billion in liabilities. The company uses the change in its per share book value — or assets less liabilities — to measure its performance, with the goal of beating the S&P 500. Subsidiaries of the conglomerate include insurers GEICO, General Re, BNSF Railway, and apparel maker Fruit of the Loom. The company also has substantial investments in household names such as Heinz, Wells Fargo, IBM, American Express, and The Coca-Cola Company.

14. China Mobile Limited
> Net income from cont. operations: $19.8 billion
> Country: Hong Kong SAR
> Industry: Wireless telecommunication services
> Revenue: $104.1 billion

China Mobile has a truly massive customer base of more than 799 million people. That is more than double the population of the United States and is even far larger than the population of the European Union. In its latest fiscal year, China Mobile reported more than 630 billion yuan in revenue in fiscal 201X, or $104 billion. Earnings excluding one-time gains and losses were close to $20 billion. After reaching a deal with Apple — another one of the world’s most profitable companies — China Mobile started this year to make the iPhone available to the more than 285 million customers on its 3G and 4G networks. The recent arrival of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus could boost China Mobile’s total number of 4G customers, which rose from nearly 30 million in August to almost 41 million in September.

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13. PetroChina Co. Ltd.
> Net income from cont. operations: $21.1 billion
> Country: China
> Industry: Integrated oil and gas
> Revenue: $373.0 billion

Oil and gas company PetroChina was formed in 1988 and is currently controlled by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which owns more than 86% of common shares outstanding. PetroChina is the largest oil and gas company in China, and one of the largest in the world in terms of revenue. PetroChina reported revenue of $373 billion last year, among the highest worldwide. PetroChina’s total assets grew by 3.6% from the previous reporting period to $2.34 trillion yuan — or roughly $387 billion — at the end of last year. The company employed 863,824 people around the world as of December 2013.

12. Chevron Corporation
> Net income from cont. operations: $21.4 billion
> Country: United States
> Industry: Integrated oil and gas
> Revenue: $211.7 billion

Oil and gas giant Chevron earned more than $21 billion last year. Most of the company’s profits came from its upstream business, which handles the exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas. However, Chevron was even more profitable in the past. Both net income and return on equity have dropped in the last two years, largely because the company is sensitive to oil prices changes. Including affiliates, the company produced 1.7 million barrels of oil and 5.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day last year. However, the significant decline in oil prices this year may pose a challenge to the company’s profitability.

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11. Wells Fargo & Company
> Net income from cont. operations: $21.9 billion
> Country: United States
> Industry: Diversified banks
> Revenue: $81.5 billion

Wells Fargo & Company, one of the oldest and largest banks in America, reported net income of more than $21 billion in 2013, up for the fifth consecutive year.. Like several major banks, the financial crisis also provided an opportunity to grow for Wells Fargo. In June 20089, Wells Fargo had just over $275 billion in deposits. That October, Wells Fargo agreed to acquire Wachovia, which had suffered deep losses from its adjustable-rate mortgage lending. With Wachovia’s nearly $499 billion in deposits and more than 3,300 branches as of June 2008, the acquisition grew Wells Fargo’s retail banking network considerably. As of June, Wells Fargo had total deposits of $1.1 trillion, among the highest worldwide.

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