Guiding your life’s biggest financial moments

The Dutch East India Co. has been dubbed the world’s first multinational.

At the end of the 16th century, Dutch ships sailed to South and East Asia to bring spices such as cloves and nutmeg and luxury goods back to Europe. The demand for and profits from these goods were so strong that Dutch shippers recognized the value of joining forces, which led to the establishment of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or the United East India Company (or outside the Netherlands the Dutch East India Company Co).

Much of the company’s wealth came from the monopoly status the government had granted it for all Dutch trade in Asia. And compounding those profits was the boom in the tulip bulb trade, the prices of which skyrocketed in the 1630s. “Tulip Mania” is not only considered the first true financial bubble in history, it is considered as one of the biggest bubbles ever, ranking among internet stocks in the 1990s and real estate in the mid-2000s.

With full control of the Asian trade and the tulip craze, which ended in a disastrous crash, the company’s overall market value reached 78 million Dutch guilders in the early 1600s, according to Alex Planes. , writing for Motley Fool. This equates to approximately $ 8.2 trillion today.

South Sea Company

Industry: International trade

Value in today’s dollars: 4 trillion dollars

South Sea Co. positioned itself as a British version of the Dutch East India Co. in the 1700s. But instead of contributing to a bubble (in the tulip bulb trade), South Sea was the bubble itself. .

Nicknamed by modern analysts “Enron of England”, South Sea Co. presented itself as a promising investment because it enjoyed a trade monopoly with Mexico and the countries of South America. The British government granted him this monopoly in exchange for help with financing the government’s debt, in the midst of the war with Spain.

The problem was, Spain controlled many of these South American trading posts, and the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended that war, left Spain firmly in control of these territories, making the “monopoly” From the South Sea Co. meaningless.

That didn’t stop company executives from making false claims about commercial wealth, which sent South Sea Co. shares into a classic bubble, peaking in current dollars of around $ 4. Trillion dollars. But by the time the fraud was discovered and the bubble burst, the company’s executives had sold their stakes.


Industry: Oil exploration and production

Value in today’s dollars: $ 1.7 trillion

In the early 2000s, as global financial markets recovered from the dotcom crash, two things started to skyrocket: Oil prices, which rose from $ 20 a barrel in 2002 to around $ 140 a barrel in 2002. 2008, and the Chinese economy and stock market.

By the time PetroChina, China’s largest oil company, listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the company was overtaking ExxonMobil not only as the largest oil company, but also as the most valued company at the time.

Speculation in Chinese stocks and oil has pushed PetroChina past the market value of $ 1,000 billion, ultimately reaching $ 1.7 trillion based on today’s dollars. Of course, that was right around the time of the global financial crisis, after which oil prices crashed, Chinese stocks plunged, and PetroChina shares have since lost more than $ 800 billion in market value.

Saudi Aramco

Industry: Oil exploration and production

Value in today’s dollars: $ 1.5 trillion

Even if you only focus on the most valued companies today, Apple still can’t claim to be the biggest in the world.

This distinction goes to another monopoly – Saudi Aramco, the state oil company of Saudi Arabia, which is the world’s largest er of

The company is built on the oil holdings of one of the world’s most oil-producing countries. With an initial public offering slated for early next year, Saudi Aramco is currently valued at $ 1.5 trillion, about 50% larger than Apple.

Standard oil

Industry: Oil exploration and production

Value in today’s dollars: 1000 billion dollars

It wasn’t that long ago that ExxonMobil, not Apple, was America’s most valuable company.

Yet what constitutes ExxonMobil today was only a small part of a much larger energy giant over a century ago. Prior to 1911, when the government ordered its dissolution, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was the largest corporation in the country.

To understand the size of Standard Oil, imagine ExxonMobil, Chevron, parts of BP, and Marathon Petroleum all in one company. It’s basically Standard Oil before the Sherman Antitrust Act forced the monopoly to get rid of.

Estimates point to a market cap of $ 1,000 billion if Standard had risen today.


Industry: Technology

Value in today’s dollars: $ 930 billion

Today Microsoft is considered “old technology” – in other words, it is seen as an industry leader that generates reliable profits, but is expected to grow much slower than “new technology” leaders like Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and even Apple.

But investors who came of age after the dotcom crash may not realize that in the 1990s Microsoft was the leader and Apple was lagging behind. Indeed, from 1990 to 1999, Microsoft shares gained nearly 10,000%, against only 133% for Apple.

During this historic period during the tech bubble craze, Microsoft’s market value has skyrocketed to around $ 613 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $ 930 billion in today’s dollars, which puts it pretty close to Apple’s level right now.

General Electric

Industry: Industrial

Value in today’s dollars: 911 billion dollars

It’s hard to remember, now that General Electric has had a hard time, having lost almost half of its value in the past year.

But in much the same way as Microsoft, GE’s market value exploded in the late 1990s, reaching $ 600 billion in 2000. That equates to $ 911 billion today.

Of course, in real dollars, GE’s price never recovered from the 2008 recession, giving it a market cap of around $ 130 billion, 78% below its 2000 level.

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