World business leaders faced impossible decisions a year ago. Initiate layoffs, or wait for government money? Pay rent, or meet payroll? Which factories do we mothball first? How do we liquidate all this inventory? Chapter 11 now or later?
Yet even as airlines and retailers collapsed, oil prices plunged below zero and death counts soared -- there were some pandemic bright spots. Pharmas like Pfizer and AstraZeneca have been busy, while Amazon can't find enough workers. And as we have learned to live ever more of our lives as digital simulacra, it's still rather shocking that semiconductor giants like TSMC and Nvidia can't make their chips fast enough.
Since 2003, Forbes’ Global 2000 list has measured the world’s largest public companies in terms of four equally weighted metrics: assets, market value, sales and profits. Last year’s edition offered a glimpse into the early economic implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, we see the results over 12 months of market turmoil and unfathomable human loss. The results are not all bad. With central banks allowing negative interest rates, investors have determined that there is no alternative to equity investing. Naturally, the total global stock market jumped roughly 48% in the past year. So although sales and profits may be down for the Forbes Global 2000 companies, total assets and market value are up. (See below for our detailed methodology, based on latest-12-months’ financial data available to us on April 16, 2021.) Sign of the times: The minimum market value to be considered for the 2021 list was $8.26 billion, up from $5.27 billion in 2020.