Saudi Aramco finally went public with the world’s largest IPO on December 11th. However, from a historical perspective Saudi Aramco would still not be the world’s largest company ever. Our new visualization looks at the most valuable companies of all time, measured by their market capitalization.
Eight companies have reached a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion in today’s dollars.
Six of the top 20 biggest companies of all time were founded by countries other than the United States.
The three largest companies were part of the shipping industry during the early colonial age. The next three largest are related to oil & petroleum. The tech industry rounds out the rest of the top ten largest companies of all time.
While most of these companies are still in business in 2019, four of them (Standard Oil, South Sea Co, Mississippi Company, and Dutch East India Company) have already gone bust.
The market capitalization data for this visualization comes from Fool.com and Yahoo Finance, with prices as of 12/20/2019. All prices are expressed in USD. The companies in the visualization are listed in order from lowest market capitalization at the top to highest market capitalization at the bottom, with each company’s corresponding circle growing larger to reflect the size of its market cap. The years on the right indicate the date we referenced for the market capitalization data.
Top 10 Biggest Companies of All Time
1. Dutch East India Company: $8.28 trillion
2. Mississippi Company: $6.8 trillion
3. South Sea Company: $4.5 trillion
4. Saudi Aramco: $1.89 trillion
5. Apple: $1.3 trillion
6. PetroChina: $1.24 trillion
7. Microsoft: $1.2 trillion
8. Standard Oil: more than $1 trillion
9. Alphabet: $931 million
10. Amazon: $886 million
The Dutch East India Co. holds the distinction of being the first company to offer shares of its business to the public, effectively conducting the world’s first initial public offering (IPO). Interestingly, the three shipping companies on this list–the Dutch East India Co., the Mississippi Co. and the South Sea Co.–had market caps more than twice as high as today’s biggest company, Saudi Aramco. These “joint-stock companies” that sought to capitalize on trade with the New World ultimately went bankrupt before 1800. However, the Dutch East India Co. in particular ushered in a new wave of economic growth and social change similar to how industry giants in the tech field are doing today.
Another company on this list that no longer exists is John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. The Standard Oil Company was dissolved on May 15, 1911 when the Supreme Court ruled that it was a monopoly and therefore violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. As legislators turn their attention to Big Tech and whether or not companies like Google and Amazon are also in violation of antitrust laws, it is interesting to ponder if history will repeat itself or what might turn out differently this time around.