The 68th edition of the Fortune 500 list is out this morning, and what’s interesting is not so much who’s on it—the top five remain the same: Walmart, Amazon, Apple, CVS Health, and UnitedHealth Group—but rather what a bang-up year the 500 had in 2021.
Profits were by far at an all-time high—$1.84 trillion, up from the previous high of $1.22 trillion in 2019. Profit margins were at a record as well—11.4%, compared to the previous high of 8.9% in 2013. And profits per employee soared to $61,821, up from the previous record in 2019 of $41,884.
There were some notable new additions to the list. Vaccine-maker Moderna, which didn’t even have a product prior to the pandemic, clocked in at 195 on this year’s list. And Cleveland Cliffs—whose CEO Lourenco Goncalves I visited in Cleveland this month—soared from 501 to 171, thanks to a pair of acquisitions engineered by Goncalves that have transformed the 175-year-old mining company into the top provider of steel for the U.S. automobile industry. He expects his business to continue to soar as the industry retools for EVs.
Some notable companies also fell off the list, including R.R. Donnelly, Electronic Arts, and Ralph Lauren. You can view the full list here.
Also out this morning: the Edelman Trust Barometer, released for the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos (displaced from its usual January date). The global survey shows business remains the most trusted institution around the world—above NGOs, government and media. In the U.S., trust in business actually rose six points, and in the U.K. it rose five. One reason: positive reaction to the thousands of companies that pulled out of Russia after its attack on Ukraine.
Tomorrow, we’ll release results from our own survey of the Fortune 500 CEOs. Warning: in spite of last year’s unprecedented results, they’ve turned pessimistic. I’ll be reporting the rest of the week from Davos—which, sadly, is drenched in rain, rather than covered with snow. More news below.
Biden on Taiwan
President Biden has said the U.S. would be willing to "get involved militarily" to defend Taiwan if Beijing were to attack it. The move comes after the U.S. irked China by changing its State Department fact sheet on relations with Taiwan, to refer to its own one-China policy (which does not uphold China's claim on Taiwan) but not Beijing's. Fortune
Musk and Twitter
Elon Musk belatedly wants a cheaper Twitter. He said (on the platform of course) that its price should be cut by the proportion of its accounts that are bots—and accused Twitter of failing to explain its low estimates of that tally. "Very suspicious," says the guy who didn't do due diligence. Fortune
Broadcom and VMware
Chipmaker Broadcom is reportedly in advanced talks regarding a takeover of VMware, a major "hybrid cloud" player. Dell spun off its 81% stake in VMware last year. Wall Street Journal
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has signaled an imminent end to the Eurozone's negative interest rates. Like all central bank chiefs, Lagarde is under pressure to tackle soaring inflation. "Based on the current outlook," she said, the ECB is "likely to be in a position to exit negative interest rates by the end of the third quarter." Financial Times
AROUND THE WATERCOOLER
Where's the floor?
Goldman Sachs reckons the S&P 500 will end the year at 4,300, which would be up 10% from where we are now. On the other hand, it would be substantially lower than the 4,700 Goldman was previously predicting. BoA thinks the markets still have some dropping to do. Fortune
After a report suggested some cryptocurrency wallets were engaging in insider trading, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said his company has a "zero-tolerance policy" towards such things, and called for whistleblowers to do their thing if they see any evidence of wallets "front-running" token listings. Fortune
Australia has a new, left-wing Labor government following the weekend's elections. New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his administration will focus more on climate change and on relations with Southeast Asia. Also, no big China-policy changes under his watch, Albanese claimed. Reuters
Russia has banned nearly 1,000 leading Americans from coming to visit, ranging from President Biden to Mark Zuckerberg and…Morgan Freeman? Moscow Times
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.
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