When Cisco was crowned as the world’s biggest company by market value in April 2000, its boss hoped it would go on to become the first firm worth over $1 trillion. But its reign was to prove short-lived: deposed by Microsoft two days later, it never regained top spot. It is now in 53rd place.

Cisco may be a cautionary tale for Alphabet, Google’s parent, which on February 2nd usurped Apple to become the world’s most valuable listed company, only to slip back behind the Cupertino-based firm the next day. Come what may, however, Alphabet is now a member of a select club of firms that have led the league over the past quarter-century (see chart).

 

What do these companies have in common? Age doesn’t appear to be a significant factor in determining dominance. Among the dozen are the old and established (like Exxon Mobil, founded as Standard Oil in 1870), and the new and innovative. Apple was 35 years old when it reached the summit in 2011. Google turned 17 in September.

Just two non-American firms have claimed the title. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, a Japanese utility, was the world’s most valuable quoted…Continue reading

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