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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Wal-Mart increases Fortune 500 lead

March 31, 2003

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— Wal-Mart Stores Inc. solidified its position atop the Fortune 500 rankings as the nation's need for affordable staples boosted the retailer's revenue in 2002.

Wal-Mart for a second consecutive year held the top spot on the list, which ranks publicly traded companies based on their revenues. Fortune editors conjectured that the discount merchant's worldwide growth might help it secure the position permanently.

The magazine's annual rankings showed the usual trading of spots in the top 5. At No. 2 was General Motors Corp., which rose from No. 3, switching places with Exxon Mobil Corp. Ford Motor Co. retained fourth place and General Electric Co. moved up one to fifth.

Enron Corp., the energy trader that made it to No. 5 in the previous list, dropped off after filing for bankruptcy.

Two financial powers were among the 2002 top 10. Citigroup moved up one spot to sixth, and American International Group gained three spots to ninth. ChevronTexaco Corp. was seventh, IBM eighth and Verizon Communications Inc. 10th. Each moved up a spot from the 2001 list.

Profits for the 500 plunged 66 percent to a collective $69.6 billion after a record drop in 2001. The magazine's editors said the latest decline was largely caused by accounting changes, which have made many companies far more conservative in their financial reporting. But the effects of the sluggish economy were nonetheless apparent -- aggregate revenue slid for only the sixth time in the list's 49-year history, down 6 percent to $6.95 trillion.

Wal-Mart, however, saw revenue increase 12 percent to $246.5 billion, $60 billion ahead of GM.

Among the 36 newcomers was ubiquitous coffee purveyor Starbucks Corp., which arrived as No. 465. The highest-ranked new company on the list was AT&T Wireless Services, at No. 119. Other prominent newcomers were beer maker Adolph Coors Co., No. 422, and Ace Hardware, No. 490.

Among the notables joining Enron in departing the 500 was WorldCom Inc., the bankrupt telecom giant that was 42nd in last year's rankings.

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