25 British companies are in the world's top 500

The UK still punches above its weight when it comes to the world's corporate big beasts, but we're slipping.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 25 Sep 2017

When it comes to big business, Britain traditionally punches above its weight, but is UK plc slipping down the rankings? There are now 25 British firms within the world’s biggest 500, down from 27 last year. 

The list, complied annually by Fortune, ranks firms by revenues. Wal-mart comes top (again), with the Chinese State Grid chasing at its heels. The combined revenues of the top 500 came to a staggering $27.7tn (£22.2tn) in 2016, marginally more than the year before but still some way off the $31.2tn made in 2014. Total profits were level at $1.5tn. 

With Earth plc struggling somewhat, British firms perhaps shouldn't feel so bad. The UK is in sixth place in terms of numbers of firms on the list, behind the US (133), China (109), Japan (51), France (29) and Germany (29).

It might be tempting to ascribe Britain's relative decline to Brexit worries, but these are largely multinational companies, many of which have benefited from the fall in sterling as they earn in other currencies. Besides, the fall has been going on for at least a couple of years - there were 30 British companies on the list in 2015. 

Legal & General and Standard Life joined the global top 500 in what was a bumper year for insurers and asset managers, while Standard Chartered, RBS, Rolls-Royce and Greenergy lost their places.

Here's the full list of British companies in the world's top 500:

7. Royal Dutch Shell (5 in 2015). Fortune may not count it as British as well as Dutch, but we do.

12. BP (10).  Despite their travails, oil firms remain heavy hitters.

49. Legal & General (-). Revenues quadrupled as the firm transitions to asset management.

56. Prudential (126). A good year for insurers.

88. HSBC (68). British for now…

90. Aviva (279). Told you about the insurers.

92. Tesco (72). It may be ailing, but it's still a giant.

121. Lloyds (193).

149. Vodafone (133).

150. Unilever (147). Like Shell, technically Anglo-Dutch.

269. SSE (216).

273. GlaxoSmithKline (278).

284. Barclays (181).

286. Centrica (220).

310. J Sainsbury (288)

316. Rio Tinto (296).

346. BT (369). 

387. Compass Group (387).

422. Old Mutual (500). Looks like you can teach an old insurance company new tricks.

432. Standard Life (-).

435. IAG (421). 

452. BAE Systems (415)

470. Astrazeneca (435).

491. National Grid (471).

498. Wm Morrison (437). 

Image credit: Colin/Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published in July 2015.

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