FT 500 2015 Introduction and methodology

See how the top global companies were ranked

This is the 19th annual ranking of the FT Global 500, providing an annual snapshot of the world’s largest companies. The total market capitalisation of the Global 500 companies has increased 5.5 per cent from $30,696bn to $32,387bn.

The FTSE All World index has risen 3.5% over the same period.

Apple remains the world’s most valuable company, with its market value increasing more than 50 per cent to $725bn. Among the top 10 companies, the largest risers are PetroChina (sixth from 16th) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ninth from 21st), reflecting the increase in Chinese shares’ market values overall. The Shanghai Composite index has risen by 84.9% (in dollar terms) in the year to March 31 2015.

Healthcare equipment and services, technology hardware and equipment and general retailers are among the best performing FTSE All-World sectors in the year to March 31 2015. Oil and gas producers, oil and gas equipment and services and mining are among the worst performing.

Banks remain the most valuable sector in the list, with banks’ market value rising by 5 per cent. Pharmaceuticals became the second most valuable sector with an increase in market value of 16.66 per cent compared to the 2014 survey.

The main Global 500 table and others available on FT.com show how corporate fortunes have changed in the past year, highlighting relative performance of countries and sectors.

The companies are ranked by market capitalisation — the greater the stock market value of a company, the higher its ranking. Market capitalisation is the share price on March 31 2015 multiplied by the number of shares issued. The figures were converted into a common currency to allow comparison so all the figures in the main FT 500 ranking are presented in terms of the dollar at that date.

We have included all companies where the free float — the proportion of shares in market circulation — is at least 15 per cent. Companies are then valued on the lines of shares that are quoted on the stock market. The full value of a listed stock is included even if part of it is tightly held. Unlisted lines of stock are excluded. Investment companies are not included. Download an alternative ranking of FT 500 companies if unlisted lines of stocks were included.

A company’s country allocation in the FT 500 is based on incorporation and stock market listing, along with market perception, largely following the FTSE guidelines. This can lead to what may seem like some anomalies. For example, Airbus and STMicroelectronics, both incorporated in the Netherlands, are classified as French as the main quotes are on the Euronext Paris exchange. Schlumberger and Seagate Technology are classified as US, although they are incorporated in the Netherlands Antilles and Ireland respectively. The Jardine companies appear under Hong Kong despite their Singapore listings and incorporations in Bermuda.

In addition to the Global 500, FT 500 includes rankings for Europe, US, UK, Japan and emerging markets. The FT 500 tables shows for each company — the rank in 2015 and 2014, the country, market capitalisation, sector, turnover, net income, total assets and employees, price, price/earnings ratio, dividend yield and the company’s year end.

Subsidiary tables show the newcomers to the list (and those which have disappeared), market capitalisation by sector and by country as well as a list ranking all the Global 500 companies within their sectors.

Companies can be ranked by any of their key statistics such as turnover (as used by Fortune magazine in its Global 500), employment or profits. While each can be interesting, we feel there are more weaknesses with these methods. Turnover, for example, does not adequately allow for banks and some financial services companies, while profits will be distorted by write-offs. A common problem affecting most methods other than market capitalisation is timing. As profit and turnover figures come from annual reports, any ranking based on them must be out of date. As annual reports are staggered through the year some of the numbers used for the rankings would be relating to a period two years before publication of the ranking.

In contrast it can also be argued that a ranking based on market capitalisations contains a forward-looking element in the sense that share prices include a view on investors’ expectations.

The FT 500 companies can be followed in the newspaper and on www.ft.com. A table listing all the FT500 companies appears daily in the UK edition of the paper (and on Mondays in the international editions) and in the data archive on www.ft.com. Through the week the FT 500 companies are identified on the international editions’ stock listing pages by a Maltese cross symbol. The constituents of that list are updated quarterly with successive updates shown at www.ft.com/ft500.

Download the rankings in Xls format below.

See the methodology of ranking the top global companies.

Global 500 2015

Global 500

Global 500 companies ranked by sector

Global 500 market value by country

Global 500 market value by sector

Newcomers to the Global 500

Departures from the Global 500

US 500 2015

US 500

US 500 companies ranked by sector

US 500 market value by sector

Newcomers to the US 500

Departures from the US 500

Europe 500 2015

Europe 500

Europe 500 companies ranked by sector

Europe 500 market value by country

Europe 500 market value by sector

Newcomers to the Europe 500

Departures from the Europe 500

UK 500 2015

UK 500

UK 500 companies ranked by sector

UK 500 market value by sector

Newcomers to the UK 500

Departures from the UK 500

Japan 500 2015

Japan 500

Japan 500 companies ranked by sector

Japan 500 market value by sector

Newcomers to the Japan 500

Departures from the Japan 500

Emerging 500 2015

Emerging 500

Emerging 500 companies ranked by sector

Emerging 500 market value by country

Emerging 500 market value by sector

Newcomers to the Emerging 500

Departures from the Emerging 500

View our archive of annual FT 500 rankings and the FT 500 quarterly updates

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.