Mary Altaffer  /  AP file
Citigroup was ranked the top company in Forbes annual list of 2,000 biggest public companies. The company reported more than $120 billion in sales.
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updated 3/30/2006 7:24:15 PM ET 2006-03-31T00:24:15

The Forbes 2000 is not only a comprehensive list of the world's largest, most powerful, public companies, but also unique in its way of measuring corporate size. Our logic for using sales, profits, assets and market value in a composite ranking: A list based on a single metric provides a lopsided view of which companies are most important to the world's economy.

Selecting the largest companies strictly on sales would put Google, with $6.1 billion in revenues, way down in rank, even though it is the world's 36th largest company measured by market capitalization. So why not rank corporations just on market value? All you have to do is go back to a year like 2000, when tiny startups, with little in the way of sales, assets, employees, or even a viable business, were suddenly valued as if they were blue chip corporations. An asset-ranked list has an obvious shortcoming: financial service companies would dominate. And a list ordered solely on corporate profits would completely miss big cyclical companies like General Motors and Ford Motor during downturns.

For all the above reasons, we developed our composite ranking system for selecting and ordering the Forbes Global 2000. Using our methodology, Chevron ($185 billion in revenues, $14 billion in profits, $125 billion in assets and $127 billion in market) ranks 16. Chevron's ranks on the four underlying metrics range from a high of six on sales to a low of 122 on assets.

Well-known global companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Toyota Motor head the Forbes Global 2000, but as you drill down into the rankings, you will find companies that are not household names in America. Today, one cannot purchase many of those companies as American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), a type of security that makes it easy for U.S. investors to hold stakes in foreign companies. That is likely to change as these companies gain in stature and recognition. If you want to find companies that might become the international leaders of tomorrow, the Forbes Global 2000 is an excellent prospecting list.

Last year, for example, we ranked Xstrata 764 on the Forbes Global 2000; this year it climbed to 510. Based in Switzerland, this coal and metals-mining company saw double digit gains in all four metrics, highlighted by a 38% increase in market value. Someday a company like Xstrata, which trades in Switzerland and London, might be available as an ADR.

With combined sales of $24 trillion; profits, $1.7 billion; assets $88 trillion; market value $31 trillion; and worldwide employees 68 million, the Forbes Global 2000 accounts for a significant chunk of the global economy. This year's rankings, which span 55 countries, show the gains of emerging economic dynamos such as China and India. We now include 36 companies based in Hong Kong/China, a gain of eight over the previous list; 28 in mainland China, up three; and 33 in India, up three.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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