New Internationalist

Vital Statistics

Issue 085

An assessment of how the world’s biggest companies have fared over the last decade - and how international they have become.

A closer look at the figures


Some allowance for inflation has to be made when looking at the growth of the worlds top companies from 1968 to 1978. Prices and wages over that period in the industrialised countries have increased by approximately 150 per cent, that is $100 in 1968 would be $250 by 1978. The average increase in sales over that period has been an interesting 426 per cent, with a corresponding effect on profits.


Three groups of companies have done particularly well - the first is the oil companies. The size of their profits has been so embarrassingly high, that it has provoked widespread hostility from the consumer lobby in the US. The other high fliers are the German and Japanese companies. The growth in their sales, measured in US dollars, has been artificially boosted by the devaluation of the dollar against the deutschmark and yen. However, the US economy and US-based companies have been partially protected from the severe oil price hikes - as 55 per cent of petroleum is found within the country. Germany and Japan have had to import 100 per cent of their oil needs, and yet the oil price rises made remarkably little dent in their company fortunes. EXPANSION OF FOREIGN INTERESTS Although there is a lack of complete figures on the overseas interests of the top companies, there has probably been an expansion of foreign earnings as a total proportion of most corporations income over the decade. Most of the foreign-earnt money would have come from other Western industrial countries - not the Third World.


The number of jobs provided by each of the companies varies wildly. But oil companies are a particularly bad bet in providing employment. Over the decade, whatever happened to sales and profits, numbers employed have remained about the same.

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