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Wal-Mart Tops Fortune 500; Enron Rises to Fifth Place

Rankings: Discount retailer takes No. 1 spot from Exxon Mobil. Magazine says bankruptcy filing doesn't disqualify the energy trader.

April 01, 2002|MATT MOORE | ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the discounter that has become the dominant force in American retailing, is officially the largest company in the world, capturing the top spot on the annual Fortune 500 list.

Wal-Mart, No. 2 on the list of top U.S. corporations a year ago, traded places with oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. in the rankings compiled on the basis of revenue. The retailer's ascendancy was expected after both companies issued their 2001 results this year.

The list, published in the issue of Fortune magazine that reaches newsstands April 8, had some surprises, most notably the appearance of Enron Corp., which moved up two notches to No. 5 despite its downward spiral.

Fortune itself questioned why Enron made the list but noted that the company benefited from the fact that, like other energy traders, it was allowed to include trading contracts in its revenue. Other energy trading firms also advanced in the rankings.

Wal-Mart became the first service company to lead the 500, which until 1995 was restricted to manufacturing concerns.

Wal-Mart had $219.8 billion in revenue, compared with Exxon Mobil's $191.6 billion. The only other retailer in the top 20 was Home Depot Inc., which rose to No. 18 from 23, with revenue of $53.6 billion.

Wal-Mart remained the company with the most employees on the list, with more than 1.2million workers worldwide.

The list of the largest publicly held companies has been compiled annually since 1955 by the editors of Fortune. General Motors Corp., which had held the top spot on the list for 15 years until 2000, stayed at No. 3, with revenue of $177.3billion.

Despite Exxon Mobil's slip to No. 2, energy companies fared well in 2001, with ChevronTexaco Corp. at No. 8, rising from No. 20 because of the merger of Chevron Corp. and Texaco Inc.

American Electric Power Co. shot up to 13 from 146, and Duke Energy Corp. rose to 14 from 17. El Paso Corp. made it up to 17 from 86, and Reliant Energy Inc. rose to 26 from 55.

Dynegy Inc., which backed out of an $8.5-billion merger with Enron, rose to 30 from 54.

Carol Loomis, a member of Fortune's board of editors, said Enron made the list because the magazine used Enron's restated earnings from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, which gave it revenue of $138.7 billion. Despite filing for bankruptcy protection Dec.2, the company was eligible for consideration.

"And that figure is what makes it fifth on our list," she said.

Mergers again lifted some companies, including AOL Time Warner Inc., which jumped to 37 from 271 because of the combination of Time Warner and America Online. The company had $38.2billion in revenue, making it the largest Internet and entertainment company on the annual list.

Continued woes in the telecommunications industry hurt several companies' rankings, including Verizon Communications Inc., which fell to 11 from 10. SBC Communications Inc. dropped to 27 from 14, and WorldCom Inc. fell 10 spots to 42.

Computer companies were led by IBM Corp., which stayed in the top 10 but fell to ninth place from eighth.

Microsoft Corp. rose to 72 from 79, and Cisco Systems Inc., which makes equipment for the Internet, advanced to 92 from 107 despite continued slowness in the dot-com market.

The top 10 also included Ford Motor Co. at No. 4, a position it held last year. General Electric Co. dropped one place to No. 6, and Citigroup Inc., the largest financial services company in the nation, fell to No. 7 from No. 6.

Philip Morris Cos. rounded out the top 10 after moving up one spot from 11.

Total profit for the 500 corporations last year fell 53% to $206 billion. In contrast, 2000 saw an 8.4% increase. The magazine's editors said the drop in 2001 was the largest since the magazine started compiling the list.

Combined revenue grew 3% to $7.4 trillion, compared with $7.2 trillion in 2000.

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