Today, Fortune releases its 62nd annual Fortune 500 list, which ranks companies by revenues and has become a benchmark for business success.
It was a tough year for the 500. Revenues were down 4.2% from a year earlier, and profits were down 11%. That reflected a particularly poor showing by the energy sector. Exxon, which used to vie with Walmart for the list’s top spot, had just a little over half the revenues of the retail giant. Overall, the Fortune 500 had revenues of $12 trillion dollars, roughly two-thirds the size of the U.S. GDP.
Apple continued its extraordinary climb, up to the No. 3 spot this year, from No. 5 last year, and took top honor in profits. Second in profits was J.P. Morgan Chase, which enjoyed a 12.3% jump in earnings, and displaced Exxon in the number two spot. Amazon moved into the Fortune 500’s top 20 – at 18, up from 29. Other big movers included Facebook – jumping 85 spots to No. 157; and Netflix, moving to No. 379 from 474. You can find a list of the ten companies that made the biggest gains here; and the 29 companies that fell off the list here.
Check out the full list. And I recommend you find some time today to read Beth Kowitt’s fascinating story on Monsanto, which is trying to overcome a mountain of critics as it struggles to feed the planet.
More news below.
• U.S. to press China to curb industrial output
The Obama administration is planning to use annual talks with leaders in Beijing to push for cuts in excess Chinese industrial output, which has inundated foreign markets with discounted steel, aluminum and other products, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said. "We're seeing distortion in global markets because of excess capacity," Lew said in comments ahead of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Chinese leaders have said they will cut back on production at steel mills, coal mines and other plants, where capacity far exceeds domestic demand, especially as the economy slows and shifts away from those industries. New York Times (subscription required)
• Swiss voters reject basic income for all plan
Swiss voters rejected by a wide margin a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for everyone living in the wealthy country after an uneasy debate about the future of work at a time of increasing automation. Supporters had pushed to introduce a monthly income of about $2,563 per adult – no matter how much they work, saying it would promote human dignity and public service. Opponents, including the government, said it would cost too much and weaken the economy. Voters ultimately agreed, with projections showing nearly four out of five voters opposed the plan. Switzerland is the first country to hold a national referendum on an unconditional basic income, though other nations, including Finland, are looking at similar plans. Reuters
• 'Ninja Turtles' sequel falls short
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” debuted to a disappointing $35.3 million over the weekend, becoming the latest sequel this year to fall short of expectations. The opening weekend was roughly half of the $65.6 million that its predecessor, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” debuted to in 2014. Several film series have struggled at the box office in recent months, with “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” losing millions, and other sequels and spin-offs, such as “Kung Fu Panda 3” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” failing to match the grosses of previous installments. “Captain America: Civil War,” managed to buck the trend by earning over $1.1 billion globally. Paramount, which spent $135 million on the latest "Ninja Turtles" film, will have to look abroad to try to bolster the muted domestic returns. Reuters
• Chinese firm buys stake in soccer club
Chinese retail giant Suning has spent $306 million to buy a controlling stake in iconic Italian soccer club Inter Milan, the latest high-profile overseas acquisition by Chinese investors increasingly dabbling in the so-called “beautiful game.” Suning, a household name in China comparable to America's Best Buy, has acquired a 69% stake in the club. Observers say that Chinese companies are looking for areas to invest and with Italy suffering from an economic downturn, it makes sense Inter Milan would look overseas for capital. Meanwhile, Chinese investors now own British club Aston Villa, control a 20% stake in this season's Champions League runners-up Atletico Madrid, and have recently even reportedly looking to buy Inter Milan's rival AC Milan. The Associated Press
Around the Water Cooler
• U.S. poised to back startup's moon mission
U.S. officials appear poised to make history by approving the first private space mission to go beyond Earth’s orbit, The Wall Street Journal reports. The government’s endorsement would eliminate the largest regulatory hurdle to plans by Moon Express, a relatively obscure space startup, to land a roughly 20-pound package of scientific hardware on the Moon sometime next year. It also would provide the biggest federal boost yet for unmanned commercial space exploration and, potentially, the first in an array of for-profit ventures throughout the solar system. There are a few caveats to consider: approval of a formal launch license is still months away and the proposed mission poses huge technical obstacles, including the fact that the rocket Moon Express wants to use hasn't yet flown. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• Verizon ad star defects to Sprint
Millions of Americans likely recall the "Can you hear me now" ads that Verizon produced for almost a decade starting in 2002. The actor who played the role got a new gig – he now is backing Verizon rival Sprint. In an ad that first ran on Sunday night during the NBA finals, Paul Marcarelli now says he's a Sprint customer, lauding Sprint's reliability as "now within 1% of Verizon." The pitch to potential customers is that with Sprint, they can get a network that is nearly as good as Verizon's in terms of reliability, but at rates Sprint claims are half of what you would pay under most Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile plans. USA Today
• There's a Tesla challenger in China
Qiantu Motor, one of China's biggest homegrown automotive design firms, is aiming to produce its own electric roadster by making a car with materials found more commonly in business jets and mega-yachts. The sports car, K50, is to debut next year with a starting price of about$106,000, comparable to Tesla’s Model S and a price that is about a third of the BMW i8. Qiantu is entering a competitive market not only dominated by Tesla Motors, but also a bunch of Chinese electric vehicle startups that have also sought to tap the market. Electric vehicle making is a crowded field in China, with almost every carmaker rolling out models to meet stricter emission and fuel-economy rules in a market that the government has targeted to expand 10-fold from last year to 3 million units by 2025. Bloomberg