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ECONOMICS REPORT - Fortune 500 List - 2004-04-01

Broadcast: April 2, 2004

This is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

For fifty years, the business magazine Fortune has published a list of the five-hundred biggest companies in the United States. The new Fortune five-hundred list has come out. For the third year, the magazine names Wal-Mart the biggest company in America.

Wal-Mart is known for low prices in its stores. The company had sales of about two-hundred-fifty-nine-thousand-million dollars last year. Wal-Mart is first on the Fortune five-hundred list by revenue, or the total amount of money it received. Second is Exxon Mobil.

But Exxon Mobil is first in profit among the five-hundred companies listed by Fortune magazine. The company recorded earnings of more than twenty-one-thousand-million dollars in two-thousand-three.

Wal-Mart had a profit of nine-thousand-million dollars. That puts Wal-Mart in eighth place on the list of the most profitable companies in America.

The new Fortune five-hundred list rates General Motors as the third largest company in the nation, down from second place last year. The Ford Motor Company is fourth. And fifth is General Electric.

Two more oil companies are sixth and seventh on the list. Like Exxon Mobil, high oil prices helped sales at ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips last year.

Citigroup is eighth on the Fortune five-hundred list by revenue. But the financial services company is second in profits. Citigroup recorded earnings of nearly eighteen-thousand-million dollars last year.

Ninth on the Fortune five-hundred list is International Business Machines, the computer maker known as I.B.M. And the tenth biggest money-maker in the United States is the insurance company American International Group, or A.I.G.

The Fortune five-hundred list is part of American business culture. But only public companies appear on the list. Public companies sell their shares of ownership on a stock exchange to any investor. They must also release their financial information.

Together, the largest American companies had record sales last year. Low interest rates meant that people and businesses had more money to spend. Fortune also notes the tax cuts and spending increases by the Bush administration. The magazine says few observers had expected such a widespread profit recovery following two years of poor results.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Bob Doughty.