Special Report

The 20 Most Profitable Companies in the World

10. Microsoft Corporation
> Net income from cont. operations: $22.1 billion
> Country: United States
> Industry: Systems software
> Revenue: $86.8 billion

Microsoft has long been a giant in the technology industry, as well as one of its most profitable companies. The majority of Microsoft’s operating income is derived from its commercial business segments, which licenses its products to businesses, including Office for Business, Windows operating system, and its server products. Last year, across its consumer and commercial segments, Office, Windows, and server products and tools accounted for more than $58 billion of the company’s $86 billion in revenue. Going forward, however, investors are likely to look for growth from Microsoft’s phones and tablets, as well as from its cloud computing services.

9. BP plc
> Net income from cont. operations: $23.5 billion
> Country: United Kingdom
> Industry: Integrated oil and gas
> Revenue: $379.6 billion

BP was the third most profitable energy company in the world, with more than $23 billion in profits from continuing operations. This was despite the fact that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill continued to weigh on its profitability. Charges associated with the spill lowered the bottom line by $396 million, although this was down from charges of almost $5 billion in 2012. Last year, BP also recorded a gain of $12.5 billion on the sale of its 50% stake in TNK-BP. Such gains are hardly one-time events for the company, which has recorded billions in gains from such sales in each of its last three fiscal years. In return for selling TNK-BP to Rosneft, BP also grew its stake in the Russian oil giant to nearly 20%. Rosneft is also one of the most profitable companies in the world.

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8. Bank of China Ltd.
> Net income from cont. operations: $25.5 billion
> Country: China
> Industry: Diversified banks
> Revenue: $63.3 billion

Bank of China traces its history back to 1912, when its founding was approved by the founding father of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen. The bank has had several roles throughout its history. Until 1949, it served as China’s central bank. Thereafter, it managed the country’s foreign exchange operations. In 1994, it became a fully state-owned commercial bank, and in 2006, it offered shares on exchanges in both Hong Kong and Shanghai. The bank has grown to a massive size and reported net income from continuing operations exceeding $25.5 billion in 2013. At the end of last year, Bank of China was still more than two-thirds owned by the Chinese government through a state-owned enterprise.

7. Agricultural Bank of China Limited
> Net income from cont. operations: $27.1 billion
> Country: China
> Industry: Diversified banks
> Revenue: $68.2 billion

The Agricultural Bank of China is one of the big four Chinese banks, all of which are among the eight most profitable companies in the world. Until the recent public offering by e-commerce giant Alibaba, ABC held the record for largest IPO in history, after raising more than $19 billion in 2010. ABC and its cohorts have benefited from China’s move in the 1990s to establish a number of asset management companies, which buy bad loans from the Chinese banking system. However, after the most recent surge in Chinese lending, which was directed by the country’s government, worries have arisen that the Chinese financial system may be loaded with bad debt.

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6. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
> Net income from cont. operations: $27.2 billion
> Country: South Korea
> Industry: Technology hardware, storage and peripherals
> Revenue: $216.6 billion

Samsung is, by far, the most profitable company in South Korea, with more than $27 billion in income from continuing operations last year. Although its smartphone market share declined in the last year, Samsung is still the largest smartphone maker in the world. Sales of Samsung smartphones accounted for 25% of the global market as of the second quarter of 2014, according to IDC. In the first half of this year, the company’s information technology and mobile communications segment — which includes Samsung’s phones — accounted for 57.4% of the company’s sales. Of course, Samsung Electronics makes far more than just phones. It also makes monitors, digital cameras, washing machines, and more. Samsung Electronics is one of many companies bearing the Samsung name and is considered part of the Samsung Group: a network of companies, called a chaebol in South Korea, with complex cross-holdings between member firms.

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