As Apple claws to US$1t, ghost of past giants haunt it

Sydney • Apple Inc may not have surpassed US$1 trillion (RM4.07 trillion) in market value in the wake of this week’s solid results, but it remains the world’s biggest company —for now.

The iPhone maker’s shares jumped to US$201.50 on Wednesday, leaving it about US$27 billion short of the milestone. At that price, Apple is still holding on to its ranking as the largest company on Earth, for a seventh year, trailing only General Electric Co (GE) for time at the top. GE’s two runs during the 1990s and early 2000s totalled 11 years.

Those long runs are more the exceptions than the rule over the past two decades, and the role of most valuable company has been short-lived for some who have worn the crown. Microsoft Corp lost US$370 billion in value in 2000 as it tumbled from its perch at the top and only regained its 1999 market-cap peak last October. Since they last lost the title, Exxon Mobil Corp and GE have lagged far behind S&P 500 returns.

In Asia, PetroChina Co Ltd soared after it debuted in a Shanghai share listing in November 2007, briefly giving it a market cap of more than US$1 trillion in both China and Hong Kong. By the end of the subsequent year, it was worth less than US$260 billion.

On current estimates, Cupertino, California-based Apple would need to hit US$207.0425 a share to crown it as the first American company to surpass US$1 trillion.

While that’s less than a 3% gain from its closing level yesterday, Apple fell 0.8% in premarket trading yesterday. The calculation uses the number of shares disclosed in its 10Q filing published on Wednesday.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant reported US$53.3 billion in third-quarter (3Q) sales and beat expectations with its 4Q forecast. Apple said on Tuesday it expects fiscal 4Q revenue between US$60 billion and US$62 billion.

You need to go back to Exxon in 2011 to see another US firm hold the title of biggest by market value, Bloomberg calculations based on year- end data showed.

Back in the 1990s technology boom, Apple’s peer Microsoft jumped to the top spot. In the past two years, Microsoft has boosted its traded value markedly, though it hasn’t kept up with the rocketing growth of Alpha- bet Inc and Inc, which immediately trail Apple in market value. — Bloomberg