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August 3, 2021

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Chinese firms reign in Fortune 500 list

Chinese companies continued to dominate the Fortune Global 500 list with 135 firms, including those based on the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, overtaking the US for the second straight year.

A total of 18 Chinese firms are among a group of 45 newcomers to the new annual list.

Chinese companies also managed to effectively tackle the headwinds of the COVID-19 pandemic as their revenue and profitability remained largely stable. With average sales revenue of US$66.1 billion and a profit of US$3.5 billion, the companies are beating the global averages of US$63.4 billion and US$3.3 billion, respectively.

US-headquartered Walmart topped the list again, and three Chinese companies made the top 10 — the State Grid, China National Petroleum and Sinopec Group. All six airlines from last year’s list were out, falling victim to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The combined revenue of the top 500 companies dropped 4.8 percent from a year ago to US$31.7 trillion after reaching a record high of US$33.3 trillion in the previous year, the first decline in half a decade. Combined profit slid 20 percent to US$1.6 trillion.

Chinese companies are also quickly closing the gap with their US counterparts in two key metrics: return on equity and return on sales. Last year, US companies had 1.6 times average return on sales and two times average return on equity compared with Chinese companies, which fell to 1.2 times and 1.4 times.

Seven Internet companies, including China’s JD Group, Alibaba and Tencent, made the ranking.

Datong Coal Mining Group and Shandong Energy Group Co are the two fastest-rising Chinese companies, climbing 325 and 225 spots, respectively, after they combined smaller coal miners and energy companies. The rise of Chinese businesses was credited to the country’s swift pandemic control measures and efforts to boost trade.

Wang Zhile, director at Beijing New Century Academy on Transnational Corporations and a contributor to the Fortune publications, said China still lacked cutting-edge competitiveness, especially in terms of information and communications technology.

A total of 19 ICT companies made it to the list — nine Chinese companies among them.

Altogether, 10 Chinese banks contributed 41 percent to the total profit of Chinese firms. Also, non-financial Chinese companies’ average profit was only half of their US counterparts’ profit of US$4.7 billion.


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