State Monopolies Dominate China's Top 500

By Tang Xiangyang
Published: 2009-09-09

A list of China's top 500 companies, ranked according to sales revenue, was released by the China Enterprise Confederation & China Enterprise Directors Association (CEC/CEDA) at a ceremony held in Hangzhou last Saturday.

China's two state-owned oil giants, Sinopec and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), led the list - taking first and second positions respectively, while another state-owned energy giant, State Grid, filled out the top three.

This is the fifth time that Sinopec has taken the number one spot. In the last fiscal year the oil giant had a operating revenue of 1.49 trillion yuan. The revenue of each of the three leading firms exceeded one trillion yuan.

A quick glance at the list show the continuing dominance of state-owned enterprises in China's economy, with the top 43 positions taken by firms that are owned by the state. The highest ranked private firm, Huawei Technologies - a Shenzhen based global telecommunications company - slips in at number 44 on the list. 

According to the report, less than one fifth of China's top 500 companies are privately-owned, and their sales revenues comprised less than 10 percent of the total.

The top ten include all four of the big state-owned banks; the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China along with telecommunications giant China Mobile, the biggest of China's insurance companies, China Life Insurance, and Sinochem Corporation.

Though they've made the the top 500 companies, some of the state-owned enterprises listed are currently suffering the effects of the economic downturn. Recently reported annual losses among state-owned civil aviation companies and energy companies has been particularly severe, with losses of 14.5 billion yuan and 24 billion yuan being reported.

According to Li Rongrong, the director of the State-owned Asset Supervision and Administration Commission, some of the companies that made the list did so simply thanks to there size and not because of their business acumen. "To be honest, the top 500 are business giants, not powers. Companies should not only be big, but powerful too. A powerful firm may not be influential but will survive; but a company which is simply large is destined to fail."

Despite the ongoing financial crisis, this year saw an increase in the amount of operating profits required to make the top 500 list, with Qingdao's Double Star Group just sneaking over the line with an annual income of 10.54 billion yuan, over 1 billion yuan more than the company that rounded out last year's list.

Net profits at China's largest and best-performing firms totalled $US171 billion in 2008, which dwarfing the $99 billion US dollars in profit that the troubled top 500 US companies managed to earn.

The non-governmental employers' association has been releasing the list, which is modeled on the Fortune 500, since 2002.

China Enterprise Confederation & China Enterprise Directors Association: Report (Chinese)