Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the discounter that has become the dominant force in American retailing, is now the largest company in the nation and the world, capturing the top spot on the annual Fortune 500 list.
Wal-Mart, No. 2 on the list a year ago, traded places with oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. in the rankings compiled on the basis of companies' annual revenue figures. The retailer's ascendancy was expected after both companies issued their 2001 results earlier this year.
The list of America's 500 biggest companies, published in the issue of Fortune magazine that reaches newsstands Monday, has some surprises, most notably bankrupt Enron Corp. moving up two notches to No. 5 despite its recent downward spiral.
Fortune itself questioned why Enron stayed on 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 revenues. 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.
$219 billion in revenue
Since its founding 40 years ago, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company, which sells everything from fishing tackle to personal computers, has seen its annual revenues and sales surge, going from $1 billion in sales for all of 1979 to sometimes making that much in a single day last year.
Wal-Mart had $219.81 billion in revenues, compared to Exxon Mobil's $191.58 billion. The only other retailer in the top 20 was Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc., which rose to No. 18 from 23, with revenues of $53.55 billion.
Wal-Mart remained the company with most employees on the list, with more than 1.2 million worldwide.
The list of the largest publicly held companies has been compiled annually since 1955 by the editors of Fortune.
GM, which had held the top spot for 15 years until 2000, stayed at No. 3 with revenues of $177.26 billion.
Despite Exxon Mobil's slip to No. 2, energy companies fared well in 2001, with ChevronTexaco at No. 8, rising from No. 20 because of the merger of Chevron Corp. and Texaco Inc.
American Electric Power Co. Inc. shot up to No. 13 from 146 while Duke Energy Corp. rose to No. 14 from 17th place.