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The December 22nd edition of Business Week published an article titled “The World’s Most Influential Companies”. As per Business Week, “they are the innovators and front-runners that are shaping business today”.

The following is a brief overview of the the top ten companies from the list. These 10 companies “have devised winning strategies in their industries. They are the ones with the game-changing ideas, the greatest impact on consumers, and the bold tactics rivals emulate. None is infallible or without controversy”. Five of the 10 companies are US-based.

1. Apple (AAPL) is a Cupertino, California-based maker of many technology products like cool laptops, iPhones, iPods, etc. that are “imaginative, irreverent, and pleasing to the eye”. Apple’s annual sales are $24.0 B. AAPL does not pay a dividend. After reaching a high of $200 in January, the stock closed at $85.04 yesterday. Annual revenue growth in the past 5 years is 39.23%. However, sales may not continue at this pace due to the economy being in recession and many folks who own iPods, iPhones do not find the need to replace them.

2. Google (GOOG) is the world’s top search engine. It processes “3,000 queries per second in the U.S. alone”. GOOG has a P/E of 19.07 and does not pay a dividend. Late last year the stock reached a peak of $716. Yesterday it closed at $302.95.

3. Huawei is a Shenzen, China-based maker of “networking equipment, cellular handsets, and other telecommunications gear. Huawei’s stock is not listed in the US markets. The company competes against other network equipment makers like Nortel (NT), Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), Cisco (CSCO),etc. Annual sales are $12.6 billion.

4. JPMorgan Chase and Co (JPM) is one of the so-called three giant “superbanks” that dominate the financial industry in the USA. JPM currently pays a dividend of 5.22%. In September, Chase bought the failed West Coast bank Washington Mutual (WaMu).

5. St. Louis-based Monsanto (MON) is “a global provider of agricultural products for farmers”. Business Week said, “About 97% of U.S. soy is now grown using Monsanto technology, and the company’s insect- and herbicide-resistant corn and cotton have become the default standard for U.S. farmers”. The current yield is 1.45%.

6. News Corp (NWS) is one of the world’s largest media conglomerates. In the US, News Corp. owns many newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, New York Post and the Fox TV news channel. NWS pays a dividend of 1.36%.

7. The oil company Saudi Aramco is based in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Annual sales are $210 B. As the world’s largest oil producer it “ships around 8 million barrels to industrial powers” everyday. Saudi Aramco does not trade in the USA.

8. Toyota Motor Corp (TM) is one of the world’s largest auto makers. TM’s current yield is 4.8%. While revenue increased annually about 11% in the past 5 years, this week Toyota announced that auto sales plunged 21.8% in November, the biggest drop in 8 years. The company also projected that it will report its first operating loss in 70 years due to the current slowdown in the global economy.

9. Unilever PLC (UL) is one of the parent companies of the Unilever Group (Unilever) with headquarters in London, UK. Unilever owns brands such as Dove, Lipton, Vaseline, etc. and they are popular in many emerging countries such as India and Brazil. Unilever was successful in marketing its products to poor consumers by making the packages very small and setting the price accordingly. The P/E is 9.48 and the yield is 2.91%.

10. Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT) is the world’s largest retailer. The company operates the Wal-Mart Stores and Sam’s Club in the USA. Sam’s Club’s sales accounted for 11.8% of total net sales in 2008. About 100 million Americans visit its stores each week. WMT pays a dividend of 1.72%.

Source: The World's 10 Most Influential and Innovative Companies