December 21 2009|06.54 AM UTC

Stan Reybern

The World’s Most Profitable Companies

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Where in the world are the most profitable companies and exactly how much money are they raking in? In 2008, the most profitable public company on the planet made enough profits to give every American citizen $146.81. Those same profits could have bought each child on the planet $45 worth of holiday gifts. However, that didn’t happen and for most of the top companies, profits in 2009 will not come anywhere close to that level.

(click to enlarge)

Most Profitable Companies

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

chewbie December 21, 2009 at 10:31 am

to think that they are selling the natural resources that should be the population’s in the first place – back to them

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Azwar December 21, 2009 at 11:07 am

Very interesting InfoGraph. And what surprises me the most is how much each of these companies can give to the world. If these companies thought about giving to people and donating some of their profits to non-profit projects that can help humanity.

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Jason December 21, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Yeah… they could give teddy bears to all the world’s children. They could do that, then stop having the investment capital to produce oil. But hey, at least the teddy bears will keep them warm.

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WhenItStrikesMe December 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm

@Azwar, your assumption that these companies don’t give to charity is pretty presumptuous. In fact, many of the corporations people consider evil (Goldman Sachs, Exxon, etc.) are among the largest corporate donors to charity. Yes, they get tax benefits in doing so, but to assume that they don’t give to charity is pretty off base.

Additionally, their duty is to their shareholders and not to society at large.

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julian miller December 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm

that was interesting. i can see how the oil companies have a lot they must spend on r&d and investment but still they make that much profit, wow. it does seem like they could do so much more for the world. in comparison a company like google (with a different corporate makeup) gives so much to the world. google provides so much for free. google does so many things to help everyones productivity, success and growth (even in solar energy) which is simultaneously good for the world. the oil companies just seem like scrooge in comparison. they have the potential to do so much but instead they appear to be just so miserly.

this made me think of the plot in avatar (great movie) unfortunately.

capitalism is practical and gets things done but it needs some sort of extension to insure/remind that its not just about money.

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Manhattan December 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Look, I hate big corporations (Especially oil companies) as much as the next guy, but suggesting Exxon could buy every child a Christmas present is very heavy handed.

“Hey everyone! Look how terrible this guy is! He’s not buying presents for children!”

Let us draw our own conclusions about their greed.

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Frito December 21, 2009 at 1:36 pm

@chewbie

Citizen, a functioning brain has been detected. Stay where you are so that the situation can be rectified by our skilled technicians.

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Mark December 21, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Why should they give anything to the world? They earned it. Why don’t the commenters here give THEIR SALARIES to some poor folks? Give me a break.

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JJBPenguin December 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm

These companies own the land their oil comes from and have invested the money to be able to collect it and make it usable. The idea that it should be the population’s resource is a little idealistic. What percent of the population would be capable of collecting the oil, refining it, and make it useful, much less be willing to front the cost required to do so. Secondly, why should giant companies be expected to give to charities? The investors have a choice to give whatever they want, but there are plenty of people in the world that give next to nothing to charity and nobody thinks anything of it. Most people could afford to drive an older car, or ride a bike more, or cancel their $100 per month cable TV package or eat out at restaurants and put all that money to a fund for needy people, but most people are not willing to do that, and if the average person is not willing to lower their quality of life to a level that is still very livable, or even luxurious compared to many third world countries, why should the super-wealthy be expected to cut back on their expenses just because compared to the middle class, they seem to have too much money? I will admit that I am not especially wealthy, and I don’t give as much to charity as I could, but that is my choice, and that is why it is called charity instead of taxes, because it is an optional choice to help someone, and the only society that humanity can thrive in is a capitalistic society where people have the freedom to become excessively wealthy.

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Jeff Gentry December 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Every dollar of profits gets passed on to individuals who can choose to give that profit away or keep it. It would be verging on immoral for these companies to take it upon themselves to choose how to dispose of these profits instead of passing them on to stockholders and employees who can make their own decisions. These same oil companies have made gasoline cheaper than bottled water. I’m thankful a profit is made from such an accomplishment.

Watching the subtle trashing of capitalism, which is the root of our freedom, gets old.

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realitycheck December 21, 2009 at 8:41 pm

These numbers are child’s play. Instead of singling out private companies, the author of this infograph should have analyzed a real travesty – the profits of nationally owned enterprises, particularly state owned oil companies in OPEC.

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Joe R December 22, 2009 at 11:53 am

Looking at raw profit is rather misleading. What’s important is their profitability, i.e. how much money they’re making on their investment.

If I spend $10 to make $20, I walk away with $10 more than I started with–that’s a 100% return on my investment. If I spend $1000 to make $1500, I walk away with $500 more than I started with–a 50% return. Comparing the $10 in scenario 1 with the $500 in scenario 2 doesn’t tell you anything meaningful, and that’s exactly what these numbers are.

A list based on return on investment would probably be very interesting, and certainly more informative (whatever your political/economic leanings are).

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Grant December 22, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Good comments digging below the mob-thinking accusations of our day that rant against the “evils” of profit. How much profit is too much? Too little? Enough? WHO DECIDES???? The market system is still the best mechanism. Regulations should only deal with deceptive practices that hinder the ability of the market to make informed decisions…

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Tony December 22, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Note: Companies don’t exist to give their profit to children around the world.

Disgusting linkbait.

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LabGrab December 22, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Socialism for the rich capitalism for the poor is the USA. What about when oil companies go to other countries and play by their own rules by manipulating corruption?

@Jeff Gentry Capitalism is the root of our freedom? Why? Cause without it the people with bigger guns would enslave us to work in their factories for unfair wages, rewrite our property laws to their advantage and then force us to buy from the factory store at a markup. Thats full capitalism foreign policy and immigrant labor culture. Plus capitalism is too fair. We like insurance policies.

Capitalism vs Profit. Any profit margin is fair? Any open market is a good idea? I vote for dropping polar views, admitting companies add value but should not use maximization to justify immoral behavior, and stating greed is not capitalism. US is profitable which is great, lets talk about the greed thing though.

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jamie December 22, 2009 at 5:17 pm

You have succeeded where Mao and Stalin failed.. on your map of the world you have merged China and Russia together.

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Guyver December 22, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Such unreasonable extremists. One guy vaguely leaves the impression he wants them to give the oil away for free, and the rest of you instantaneously start jacking off capitalism. COME ON GUYS, don’t pretend that the status quo is a good thing right now.

The profits those fuckers are making ARE ludicrous. I can only speak for the American companies, anyway. Are you kidding me? Don’t characterize the oil industry as one built by freedom for all and the sweat off a man’s brow. Let us not forget where Exxon-Mobil got its start: Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. A greedy bastard, he was. A bit of reading on Standard Oil might be due here for some of you.

FURTHERMORE, realitycheck downplays the significance of this. I got one up on you, realitycheck. Check this: American oil companies get pretty hefty subsidies from the government. You like that? That’s one worse for you. You don’t like openly and officially state-owned enterprises raking in immense profit that doesn’t get put back into society? How about highly profitable, private oil company getting subsidized by the state even as it sells it’s product at frequently artificially-inflated prices?

Ahh yes. The wonders of capitalism. That’s right, the oil industry did put money back into society. It went towards protecting the interests of the industry at costs to the public. Yeah.

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JP December 22, 2009 at 9:30 pm

OMG. Bemoaning oil profits while enjoying your stellar quality of life that is almost totally powered by the oil that these companies work to find, extract, refine and distribute (not to mention all the goods and services that are created from oil products). I sincerely wish people could experience the stone age or Soviet Russia FIRST HAND before they vomit out more Marxist propaganda.

Please create a lot of wealth and give most of it away before criticizing other people for creating wealth and keeping much of it for reinvesting in other profit/wealth creating ventures.

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loudspencer December 22, 2009 at 9:55 pm

@ JJBPenguin – Actually, in the majority of cases the Oil company does NOT own the property on which they drill for oil. In most cases they lease “mineral extraction rights” from the government. For example, if you own a home and surrounding property, the government still owns the mineral rights to the soil beneath that property. Those rights are regularly leased to oil companies in exchange for a negotiated share of profits. In most states, the land-owner gets nothing. In California however, the land owner is entitled to a share of the lease-fee. If you look close enough, you can find oil extraction drills all over the city of L.A. cleverly disguised in people’s backyards and in city parks and office developments.

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Paul Frank December 22, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Making money is not bad–it incentivizes the investments that produce products and solutions for the challenges of our daily living. The profits represented here include individuals and pension funds planning for retirements, those creating a family medical emergency funds, and parents saving for their children’s college among many other noble endeavors.

The problem in a market economy with making money comes when external costs such as pollution or global warming are not factored in, or there is imperfect information–(companies lie or mislead)–or the industry is not competitive–(monopolies or oligopolies). Then our societies’ best interest are not served.

Throwing mud is easy. That said to me it is apparent that Big Oil has not internalized the pollution and global warming costs of oil and gas. Nor am I convinced that they have always been forthright or that their industry is competitive.

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Anonymous December 23, 2009 at 12:41 am

excellent work

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r sherman December 23, 2009 at 6:35 pm

exon profits where high because they where not spending as much as the rest looking for new gas and oil
Turns out they where right
You can do much cheaper now
From what I know they are not spending a lot now
Buying natural gas in the US was just where they did not have much in the US
Where else are they investing?
Africa and south america
That where it is the cheapiest

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jigsaw January 14, 2010 at 11:24 pm

LOL – “United States” and “The World” disjoint.

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Aravind March 20, 2010 at 2:54 am

Capitalism is good for america as it brings the looted money all over the world to their place. But all the deprivation of capitalism is left to the rest of humanity on which they impose their dollar supremacy and ‘holy’ market policies.

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Castiglia April 12, 2010 at 7:30 am

It’s not about the statistics-which is more profitable.
It’s all about the heart:what You wanna choose!
the only thing which you do with your heart in it.
that’s the point.
that thing what nobody can do like you…
…so you and your co. can be the most profitable.

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LogicalConservative May 1, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I am a staunch conservative, but I do agree that natural resources such as oil should be run by not for profit companies. I would say even 10% return on assets profit would be reasonable, but not these billions.

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Mr. Irrelevant June 25, 2010 at 6:05 am

So BP (british petrol) made over $21 Billion in PROFIT in 2008 and they are bitching over a few million dollars they have to pay in fines because of the worst man made disaster in history (other than wars)? Such a gross world we live in today. Greed is at an all time high.

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Profit Margin November 8, 2010 at 4:06 pm

This is an old info-graph, but I thought I’d throw in my comment

Simple profits when viewed without a macro context are completely useless. For the fiscal year ending 2008 (a good year), Exxon Mobile recorded revenue around 460 billion. Sound like a lot? They reported a net profit of 83 billion, or roughly _18%_. Now that’s in a good year.

Apple’s 2009 profit margin…. 28%

Lets put things in perspective.

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wat May 5, 2011 at 5:24 am

So, is there anywhere we can see a table of the non-mentioned countries?
There’s some meant-to-be European economic powerhouse missing.

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