To become a powerful force in the business world, a single company is not enough. Many large companies are actually big conglomerates controlling a number of businesses and establishments. These conglomerates are spread across countries and continents and have a diverse range of products. Here are eight such conglomerates that are quite powerful in their global standing. These companies have successfully created a niche in not just their respective fields but in other areas of their reach and built a profitable market around them. Their economic prowess and intellectual investments will keep their power intact for a long time to come.
Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)
The ICBC is a Chinese banking company that ranks #1 in the world both in assets and market capitalization. Founded in 1984, the company has assets worth US$3.22 trillion as of February 2016. Its forte extends to more than simple banking services. Its services include personal banking, corporate annuity management, trading, electronic banking, and investment banking. 85% of funding for the controversial Gilgel Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia was managed by ICBC. With over 4 million corporate clients and 300 million individual customers, ICBC is one of the world’s largest companies.
General Electric (GE)
GE is the largest conglomerate in the United States. Started as an electric company by the inventor Thomas Edison, its portfolio today includes, but is not limited to appliances, power, oil and gas, energy management, lighting, software, aviation, finance, healthcare, weapons, and transportation. This exhaustive list brings in revenue of US$117.38 billion. The company also plays a major role in US lobbying. Much of GE’s revenue is earned from its financial services wing and thus, it is primarily termed as a “financial company with a manufacturing arm”. This privilege makes it one of the largest lenders in the world.
Time Warner Inc.
Time Warner Inc. is an American media conglomerate that controls some of the world’s best film and television studios. Among its assets are companies such as New Line Cinema, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Warner Bros. Animation, CW, CNN, and HBO. Comics superheroes Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Justice League, and their DC contemporaries under DC Comics are owned by Time Warner Inc. These assets alone push its revenue over US$29.795 billion, making it America’s third largest media conglomerate. Its publishing arm has produced some of the world’s most recognized periodicals which include Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, and Time Magazine.
The Walt Disney Company
The company that gave the world Micky Mouse is also the US’s second largest media and entertainment conglomerate. It controls Walt Disney Studios, Disney Channel, ESPN, ABC, Pixar, Miramax, and Marvel Studios among many other divisions. The happiest place on Earth, Disneyland, is a major revenue generator. Publishing, merchandising, and music, video games, theme parks, and cable television are the primary sources of its success. All the happiness that it spreads gets converted into revenue that is in excess of US$52.46 billion.
Royal Dutch Shell
Royal Dutch Shell is the seventh largest company in the world. An independent Oil & Gas company, it has ventured into petrochemicals, power generation, and trading. It also dabbles in renewable energy such as biofuels and wind. Despite its environmental record and related controversies, its revenue is capped at US$264.96 billion. Operating in over 90 countries with over 40,000 stations and 47 refineries, no wonder it’s the world’s second largest oil company.
Led by the versatility of Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway makes it to the list of most powerful conglomerates. Unlike many companies who branch out into similar markets that they’d started with, Hathaway has a diverse range of businesses that venture into home furnishings, jewelry, publishing, electric utilities, vacuum cleaners, retail, and confectionaries. Its success was built on long-term investments by Buffet and employment of large amounts of capital and minimal debt. A few of the companies that Hathaway owns are apparel company Fruit of the Loom, Dairy Queen, Duracell, GEICO insurance and finance, the Acme Brick Company, The Buffalo News, and FlightSafety International. It also has minority holdings in companies like American Express, Wells Fargo, and IBM. All these investments amount to a hefty revenue of US$210.82 billion.
Another media maven that has its roots in the music industry is Viacom. Many of its companies cater to teenagers and music lovers such as MTV, Nickelodeon, TeenNick, BET, and Logo TV. It also owns production companies Paramount Studios, MTV Films, Viacom International, and Paramount Animation. It has over 700 million subscribers and operates in 160 countries. This far reach earns the conglomerate considerable revenue of US$13.794 billion, which puts it among the country’s largest media houses. Unlike its competitors, though, Viacom targets audiences who are mainly interested in music and hence controls many music offerings and record labels.
Being India’s largest private company, Reliance Industries, with revenue of US$57 billion, has its hands full with businesses in petrochemicals, retail, telecommunications, technology, and natural resources. 20% of exports from India are from Reliance Industries. Much of its revenue is generated from its core industries related to oil and gas. About 55% of shareholders are the public with total numbers approximating to three billion. Its retail wing operates in 1500 stores across India with brands such as Reliance Jewels, Reliance Fresh, Reliance Digital, Reliance Trends, and Reliance Footprints catering to a large consumer market.