Fortune’s Global 500 list is out this week, and as I reported Wednesday, Walmart took honors as the world’s largest company by revenues, while the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was number one in profits.
But key rivals have now passed both companies in terms of the market’s view of their value. Online retailer Amazon soared past Walmart yesterday after a strong earnings report. And Wells Fargo recently overtook ICBC, largely as a result of China’s market swoon, which has pushed the Chinese bank’s shares down 19% in the past month.
For Amazon, notoriously focused on growth rather than profits, a strong earnings report doesn’t actually mean strong earnings. The company posted a slim profit of 19 cents a share, but that beat Wall Street expectations of a loss of 14 cents a share. Most impressive was the stunning 82% growth in sales of its Amazon Cloud computing services. The stock soared, pushing its market capitalization to more than $250 billion, compared to Walmart’s $230 billion.
Meanwhile Wells Fargo has used its carefully cultivated image as the boring bank to outshine sexier but scandal-ridden competitors in the years since the financial crisis. It is now worth more than $300 billion, which is $40 billion more than J.P. Morgan and $120 billion more than Citigroup.
If you want a sense of the old-school values that have driven Wells Fargo to these heights, you should read CEO John Stumpf’s Fortune Insider piece which we posted yesterday, in which he compares his bank’s culture to the values he learned growing up on a farm in Minnesota. An excerpt:
I woke up at 4:30 every morning to milk cows and smelled like Holstein Friesian cattle until I was 18. I shared a bed with two of my brothers. We had tough times, and we were poor, but we got through it because we were in it together. That experience helped me see the value of what we now call culture….(At Wells Fargo) we are about team. We are about plural pronouns – we, us and ours instead of I, me, mine.
I have never milked cows, but since starting this newsletter, I can identify with the 4:30 start. I hope we are enjoying the results.
More news below.
• Anglo American to slash jobs
Mining company Anglo American reported a $3 billion loss for the first half of 2015 and announced it would cut 53,000 jobs, or remove a steep 35% of its workforce over the next few years. The company has been hurt by slumping commodity prices, which have hurt the bottom lines of mining firms across the globe. The loss came largely from the write down of the value of an $8.8 billion iron-ore project in Brazil that Anglo American launched last year. WSJ (subscription required)
• SEC thinks Diageo is spiking results
The Securities and Exchange Commission is probing whether alcoholic beverage maker Diageo may have inflated its results by shipping excess inventory to its North American distributors. The company that makes Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka and said it was working to address the SEC’s request for more information. The news comes as Diageo has faced pressure in that market and less than a month after the executive who led that region’s business announced he would step down at the end of 2015. Fortune
• Java jolt boosts Starbucks
Starbucks posted an impressive 18% jump in sales for the latest quarter, bolstered by the equivalent of 23 million more visits globally to the coffee giant’s stores than during the same period a year ago. The company has been one of the stronger players in the restaurant space, posting consistent growth even though it is a fairly large competitor in the sector. Though Starbucks sees a double-digits sales jump this year, CEO Howard Schultz said that pace of growth wasn’t sustainable long term. USA Today
• Why Pearson is selling the FT
For those paying attention, the sale of the Financial Times by Pearson wasn’t a real surprise. Fortune dives into the logic, explaining Pearson CEO John Fallon lost interest some time ago, even asking at one point: “Are we the best owners?” Another key reason: investors don’t want to support legacy media like the Financial Times. Even though it has performed well as of late, “traditional media” is still seen as a drag on earnings to any firm. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
• How Wells Fargo’s CEO built his team
The Fortune 500 Insider Network asked Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John G. Stumpf how he built his company’s culture. Stumpf says he is the “keeper of our company’s culture,” and that’s an important role considering Wells Fargo recently became the world’s most valuable bank. He said a company’s culture is rooted in how people behave. “And believe me, they notice what you do as much as what you say,” Stumpf said. Fortune
• AT&T to dial in on connected cars
AT&T, which reported it added 2.1 million subscribers in the latest quarter, said 1 million of those new connections were actually for “connected cars.” The arrival of connected cars has helped AT&T find growth in a saturated phone market, and presents an interesting business opportunity for the telecommunications giant. It also outlined three car-related revenue streams it wants to pursue, including selling data to car makers. Fortune
• Europe biotechs charm investors
With the biotechnology index almost tripling since 2013, far exceeding the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s 50% gain, it makes sense that European firms want to get in on the action. As many as 10 initial public offerings are expected on European exchanges in the sector by the end of the year, bringing the total to more than 40 in two years ending in December. One executive said the IPO rush represented a change in tone, as the window in Europe had “been completely shut for biotech IPOs.” Bloomberg