Finding a list of, say, the Top 500 European Companies is a little trickier than you might suppose.
In general, there just isn’t as much freely-available financial information in Europe as you find in the U.S. When you do come across a list, you have to be a bit careful. Which Europe is covered in the list? EU members? EU wannabes? Western Europe? East + West? The geography can be confusing.
On top of that, take care to note if the list if only for public companies (listed on stock exchanges or bourses) or if private companies are included as well.
Lastly, pay attention to how companies are ranked…there’s a big difference in rankings for, say, annual revenue (turnover) than there is for a company metric like market capitalization.
With that in mind, though, here are a few places to turn to for lists of Europe’s largest companies:
The Financial Times puts out an annual list of the world’s largest private and public companies, and you can break it out by region. The FT Europe 500 list for 2010 puts Nestle, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, HSBC and Novartis as the top five companies by market value. (You may need to register for free at FT.com to access the full list).
The annual list of the Fortune 500, also known as the Global 500, breaks out rankings by regions and includes Fortune’s Top 50 European Companies list. Shell, BP, AXA, ING and Total are the top five, by revenue.
The Forbes Global 2000 list ranks companies by a composite of revenues, assets, profits and market value. There’s no Europe-only breakout of the list, but you can sort it by individual countries. With their offbeat ranking system, Forbes has Banco Santander, HSBC, Shell, BP and BNP as Europe’s Top Five.
Last but not least, my own XooxleAnswers site created a ranking of Europe’s Top 500 public and private companies based on turnover. Though a bit dated now, Shell, BP, Total, Daimler and Volkswagen make up the five largest European companies on the list.
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