The 2018 Fortune 500 list is out, and for the sixth straight year Walmart has once again clinched its place at the top. Exxon Mobile landed in the No. 2 spot, up from No. 4 last year, likely because of rising oil prices. When looking at the list by profitability, overall best company, fastest-growing and other specifics, some trends start to appear, most notably the rise in tech- and artificial-intelligence-focused companies.
According to Features Editor Matt Heimer, the cutoff for the 2018 list was $5.4 billion in revenue in 2017. This year, the overall market value of the Fortune 500 companies increased 11 percent, reaching $21.6 trillion.
“It was only the second time in Fortune 500 history that Fortune 500 combined passed the $1 trillion mark in profits,” said Heimer. “It happened in 2013 and again last year. These are all signs of a relatively healthy economy.”
Walmart also made history this year because it’s the first time a company has topped $500 billion in revenue. Despite some hefty competition, Walmart’s next closest competitor, Amazon, is still seven places away.
Some of the company’s success may reflect Walmart’s willingness to compete with the Amazon’s of the world. The retailer recently acquired Jet.com to bolster its presence in the online market and offers free two-day shipping, something Amazon only offers to its Prime members. According to Jacqui Canney, Walmart’s chief people officer, Walmart is focused on evolving its digital strategy to remain competitive and profitable. Canney says this is the company’s “back-to-the-future” moment, noting that the effort harkens back to the founder’s principles of listening to customers and associates, and avoiding bureaucracy at all costs.
Of note, when looking at the list from most profitable to least profitable, Walmart narrowly rounded out the top 20 whereas Apple sat comfortably as No. 1 with more than $48 billion in net income. Berkshire Hathaway and Verizon trailed behind Apple with $44.9 billion and $30.1 billion in profits, respectively.
Another interesting trend that’s most noticeable this year is the rise in rank of tech companies.
“Five of the six most valuable companies on this year’s list are tech companies,” says Brian O’Keefe, deputy editor of Forbes. “Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet. Those big market caps reflect a belief by investors that these tech companies are going to continue to grow in the future.”
Tech- and artificial-intelligence-focused companies are transforming the workforce as we know it, so it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that their popularity and profitability is reflected in the 2018 rankings.
“One thing that’s interesting about this year’s Fortune 500 is the rise of AI companies,” said Andrew Nusca, digital editor of Fortune. “Facebook, Google and chip makers Nvidia are all rising and becoming powerhouses in artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is the future capability of the business and it’s going to make a lot of money.”
He added that executives pay attention to and care about the Fortune 500 because it’s a barometer for success and provides insights into bigger-picture trends.
“You convey to the rest of the business community that you make real money,” he said.