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Top 1,000 Listed Companies of Greater China

The Rise of the World-class Chinese Enterprise


The leading companies of Greater China (Taiwan, Hong Kong and China proper) are growing in scale, stature and international competitiveness. They now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the most successful enterprises of the world.



The Rise of the World-class Chinese Enterprise

By Sara Wu
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 397 )

CommonWealth Magazine's annual survey ranks the top 1,000 companies listed on stock exchanges and over-the-counter markets in the Greater China area based on operating revenue. Of those enterprises making the grade this year, 328 companies are listed in Hong Kong, 284 are listed in Shanghai, 274 are listed in Taiwan, and 160 are listed in Shenzhen. The shares of 46 companies are traded on two different markets. (See Top 30 Listed Companies of Greater China)

The threshold for admittance was high. To be a member of the exclusive top 100 club, companies had to have revenues exceeding NT$143.5 billion.

Energy, Finance Dominate Top Ten

Leading the pack this year was China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (also known by its brand name Sinopec Corp.), with revenues totaling NT$5.25 trillion.

Rounding out the Top Ten behind Sinopec were HSBC Holdings PLC, PetroChina Company, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, China Mobile Communications Corporation, China Construction Bank, the Bank of China, China Life Insurance Company, and Hutchison Whampoa.

Only one company in the Top Ten, Hon Hai, is from Taiwan. London-based HSBC and Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa were the only other non-Chinese companies to make the cut, with the remaining seven companies all state-owned corporations of China.

These seven Chinese corporations can be divided into three broad categories – oil and energy, financial services, and telecommunications. Foremost among these is oil and energy, which features the No. 1 enterprise Sinopec and No. 3 PetroChina.

PetroChina Leads in Profits

PetroChina was the top profit earner in 2008, outpacing its energy-sector rival and top revenue earner Sinopec. In terms of revenues, PetroChina's grew 21 percent to NT$3.6 trillion, leaving the giant oil and gas producer and distributor still a long way from the top. But its after-tax income of NT$620 billion was the highest of any company in Greater China, and one of the highest of any enterprise in Asia and the world.

The companies ranked fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth in the CommonWealth Magazine survey are all big players in China's financial services sector – three of them banks and one an insurance company. Faced with two big challenges today – liberalization and internationalization – China's financial sector has gradually made its way onto the international stage in recent years.

The chairman of the fourth-ranked Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Jiang Jianqing, said at this year's Boao Forum for Asia conference that Chinese banks are able to "go international''because of opportunities presented by Chinese enterprises as they globalize their purchasing, trading, manufacturing and investment. But Chinese banks are taking a cautious approach to international markets.

"We're newcomers to this, so we have been very careful in taking our first step abroad and kept our pockets pinched fairly tightly. When take a plunge, we usually do it in waters that are relatively shallow, especially following the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis. Taking it slow but finding choice opportunities is better than going in aggressively,''Jiang said.

Hon Hai: Taiwan's Top-Ten Star

Fifth-ranked Hon Hai Precision Industry, Taiwan's only enterprise to crack the Top Ten, reported revenues of NT$1.7 trillion in 2007. The Hon Hai Group is the world's biggest and fastest-growing OEM manufacturer of 3C products (computers, communications and consumer electronics) and being the only high-tech manufacturer in a group dominated by energy and financial services companies reveals its truly astounding scale.

Sixth-ranked China Mobile went public in New York and Hong Kong in 1997, leading the wave of Chinese state-run enterprises listing overseas. China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou describes his company as a charging elephant, one that now has 380 million cellphone user accounts and a market cap of US$300 billion.

"That proves that China's enterprises have not only grown big but also grown strong,''Wang says proudly, equating strength with international influence. "In the past, we listened to others in the global telecommunications industry. Now, whether it's industry standards or technical innovation, China has a say of its own.”

China's 3G TD-SCDMA standard, for example, stands as the equal of the U.S.' CDMA2000 and Europe's W-CDMA. China Mobile's cockiness is much like the slogan that entertainer Jay Chou dishes out in the company's brand advertising: "My territory. Listen to me.”

Tenth-ranked Hutchison Whampoa, run by one of the world's richest people, Li Ka-shing, had revenues of NT$850 billion in 2007. It operates container ports in 23 countries in the world, which handle 13 percent of the world's shipping volume. Hutchison Whampoa's telecom interests also feature prominently in its portfolio. Providing telecommunications services in 15 countries, it was one of the first operators around the globe to introduce 3G services to the market.

Acer Recognized as World-class Enterprise

Some companies ranked among this year's top 50 in the survey delivered breakthrough performances.

Most of the Taiwanese enterprises that made it into the top 50 were computer manufacturers (Quanta Computer Inc., Asustek Computer Inc., Compal Electronics Inc., Invectec Corporation and Lite-On Technology Corporation) and optoelectronic producers (AU Optronics Corp. and Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corporation). The most notable member of the Taiwan contingent, however, was service company Acer Inc.

Acer no longer operates any manufacturing facilities, but this year broke Taiwan Power Company's monopoly on the top spot in the CommonWealth Magazine survey of Taiwan's top 500 service enterprises. 

The company is currently the world's second largest vendor of notebook computers and ranks fourth globally in sales of desktop models.

"Acer used to think of itself as Taiwan's most internationalized company, but it really didn't measure up. Today, our distribution of revenues between Europe, the United States and Asia is 5:3:2, so this time we truly have the chance to be recognized internationally as a world-class company,"says Acer chairman J.T. Wang. Acer's acquisition last year of U.S. computer brand Gateway was instrumental in boosting its presence in the U.S, where it had been relatively weak compared to its international rivals.

China's Lenovo Group Limited ranks two spots behind Acer in the survey, but its growth rate and after-tax net income both lagged well behind Acer's, leaving it plenty of ground to make up in the battle with its Taiwanese competitor.

The world's second largest integrated shipping company behind A.P. Moeller-Maersk, China COSCO Holdings Company Limited, was founded in 1979, the year the Chinese government established special economic zones in Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou in Guangdong Province and Xiamen in Fujian Province. China COSCO chairman and CEO Wei Jiafu wants his company to fly like an eagle.

"The most important thing is to have a global vision like a soaring eagle spreading its wings from a high vantage point. China COSCO is the world's second largest shipping company. I want to make it No. 1,"Wei says.

The China COSCO Group has cooperative relations with Taiwan's Evergreen Marine Corp. (Taiwan) Ltd. and Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation, which both once led the world in shipping volume but now have fallen far behind the Chinese shipping giant.

The financial services sector is still a pillar of strength in Hong Kong, with Hutchison Whampoa and Li & Fung Group, known for its supply chain management, standing out as the standard bearers in the special administrative region. Yet while 328 of Greater China's top 1,000 listed companies are listed in Hong Kong, locally founded enterprises make up a smaller proportion of these companies than they do among the ranked companies of either China or Taiwan.

Conventional Industries Post Shining Profits

Raw material-producing conventional industries cannot be overlooked among this year's winners. Of the survey's top 50, steel (Baosteel Co., Ltd. and Taiwan's China Steel Corporation), mining (China Shenhua Energy Company Limited and Aluminum Corporation of China Limited) and plastics and chemicals (Formosa Plastics Group subsidiaries Formosa Petrochemical Corporation, Nan Ya Plastics Corporation, and Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corporation) were all represented. The after-tax profit performance of these companies outpaced those in other industries, reflecting the strength of their respective managements and the worldwide shortage of raw materials.

In this era of globalization, the significance of this year's survey of the top 1,000 listed companies in Greater China is that the region's leading enterprises have moved beyond their local comfort zones and extended their competitive realm overseas. The ranking shows that among the top 1,000 enterprises, some benefit from their economies of scale, some from their international competitiveness and some from the strength of their professional services. But no matter the source of their competitive edge, they have become benchmarks not only for Asia, but for the entire world.

Translated from the Chinese by Luke Sabatier

Chinese Version: 兩岸三地1000大