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Exxon Mobil replaces Walmart as biggest earner

Monday, April 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

NEW YORK — Exxon Mobil Corp. unseated Walmart Stores Inc. in the 2009 Fortune 500 list, shrugging off the oil price bubble and weathering what the magazine called the worst year ever for the country's largest publicly traded companies.

Fortune's closely watched list, released Sunday, ranked companies by their revenue in 2008. Irving, Texas-based Exxon took in $442.85 billion in revenue last year, up almost 19 percent from 2007. The company also raked in the biggest annual profit, earning $45.2 billion.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart had held the top spot for six of the last seven years but fell to No. 2 this year. Still, the retail giant's 2008 revenue climbed 7 percent to $405.6 billion, as the battered economy sent more consumers searching for bargains. The world's largest retailer took in $13.4 billion in annual profit, an increase of about 5 percent.

Although it may have been a good year for Exxon and Walmart, 2008 was far from rosy for most of remaining companies on the list. Overall earnings plunged 85 percent to $98.9 billion from $645 billion in 2007, the biggest one-year decline in the 55-year history of the Fortune 500 list.

"America is getting used to the sound of bubbles bursting," Fortune said.

Energy companies continued to dominate many of the top positions, as last summer's skyrocketing oil and gas prices more than compensated for their plunge later that fall. Chevron Corp. held on to third place with $263.16 billion in revenue, up 25 percent. ConocoPhillips climbed one place to fourth, with $230.76 billion in revenue.

General Electric Co., the diverse conglomerate whose troubled financial arm has been weighing on recent results, rose one notch to fifth. Battered automaker General Motors Corp. fell two spots to sixth, as revenue fell 18 percent and losses totaled $30.86 billion amid the imploding car market. Crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. followed, with $146.28 billion in revenue.

Telecom giant AT&T Inc. moved up two notches to take eighth place, with Hewlett-Packard Co. and Valero Energy Corp. rounding out the top 10.

Among the hardest hit in 2008 were financial services companies, Fortune said. Banks, securities firms and insurers took cumulative losses of $213.4 billion, accounting for almost 70 percent of the total dollar decline from the peak year of 2006, the magazine said. Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., which were No. 8 and No. 9 respectively last year, each slipped a couple notches from the Top 10.

Thirty-eight companies fell off this year's list, including financial firms Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Washington Mutual Inc. and Wachovia Corp., all of which have either gone under or been acquired by rival banks.

Engineering and construction company URS Corp. moved the most up the list, leaping 185 spots to No. 264. But the title of "biggest loser" went to AIG Corp. The insurer, which has received more than $180 billion in government bailout aid since last fall, fell 232 spots to 245 in this year's ranking.


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