US slips, China soars in Fortune company rankings

WASHINGTON: The number of US companies featured in a emminent business magazine's annual list of the world's top 500 global companies fell to its lowest level ever, Fortune magazine has said, while more Chinese firms appeared than ever before.

Signaling the effects of the devastating financial crisis on the US economy, a non-US firm topped the list for the first time in over a decade, with Anglo-Dutch energy giant Royal Dutch Shell coming in first.

The firm brought in 15 billion dollars (11 billion euros) more in sales than second place oil rival Exxon Mobil of the United States.

China, Asia's ever-soaring powerhouse economy, saw its fortunes rise across the board with a Chinese firm -- oil giant Sinopec -- appearing in the top 10 for the first time, the magazine reported Wednesday.

Sinopec, also known as China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, supplies 80 some percent of China's fuel.

Overall, China had an unprecedented total of 37 companies featured on the list, with nine new entries and the others climbing in the rankings.

The business publication meanwhile said US-based Wal-Mart Stores slid from last year's top spot to third, with revenues of over 405 billion dollars.

But the number of US firms in the top 500 fell to 140, the lowest since Fortune began the list 1995.

Japan was in second with 68 firms, while France and Germany narrowly edged out China with 40 and 39 firms respectively.

In full, number one Shell had 458 billion dollars in revenue, and Exxon Mobil had 442.8 billions in revenue.

In fourth place came British oil giant BP (367 billion dollars), followed by US oil firm Chevron (263 billion); French oil firm Total (234.6 billion); US oil firm ConocoPhillips (230.7 billion); Dutch insurance conglomerate ING Group (226.5 billion), Sinopec (207.8 billion) and Japan's Toyota Motor (204 billion).

Seven of the top ten were oil firms and only one was an automobile company.

Of the US firms to disappear from the list entirely were household names slammed by the global economic crisis -- among them AIG, Freddie Mac and Lehman Brothers, while the rising US firms were Google, Amazon and Nike.

In announcing the rankings, Fortune noted a US National Intelligence Council report called Global Trends 2025 that said if the current trends continue "by 2025 China will have the world's second largest economy."

According to a 2008 study by the US research organization Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, China's economy will overtake that of the United States by 2035 and be twice its size by midcentury.

The Fortune ranking is based only on revenues, while other rankings use profits or other factors.

Among the biggest losers was the Detroit, Michigan auto stalwart General Motors -- currently undergoing mammoth bankruptcy proceedings after reporting a net loss of more than 30 billion dollars in 2008.