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NEW YORK -- For the fourth year in a row, Wal-Mart topped Fortune magazine's Global 500, ahead of other top ten contenders BP, (Britain), Exxon Mobil (U.S.), Royal Dutch/Shell Group (Britain/Netherlands) and General Motors.
The list and accompanying stories appear in Fortune's July 25 issue, which declared 2004 an excellent year for the Global 500 contenders, whose collective revenues were up 13 percent, and profits rose 27 percent during the year.
"It got a lot harder to join the ranks of the world's largest corporations this year," said Fortune writer Janet Guyon in her introduction to the list, noting that the cutoff for the list rose by a record 15 percent, to $12.4 billion -- a figure that exceeds the GDP of Jordan or Jamaica.
"It was an especially good year for oil companies, with prices over $50 a barrel for much of 2004," said Guyon, adding that No. 2 BP saw its revenues rise 23 percent to $285.1 billion, faster than Wal-Mart's, "which were up a relatively meager 10 percent. That allowed the British oil company to come within $2.9 billion of usurping Wal-Mart as the world's biggest company."
The United States has far more companies on the list (176) than any other; however, there are 14 fewer U.S. companies on the list this year than last year, mainly due to the weakness of the dollar in 2004.
Tokyo is home to more Global 500 companies than any other city, with 56 -- twice as many as Paris, which has 27 -- and ranks well ahead of London (24) and New York (22). But French and British companies outperformed the Japanese, with profits rising 85 percent and 46 percent respectively, compared with 9 percent for companies in Japan.