Fortune 500: News Corp bumped off list as Shell loses top spot

The split of News Corp has bumped its print business off the Fortune 500 list of the world’s biggest companies.

But its sister company, 21st Century Fox, has effectively taken the newspaper empire’s place in its debut on the list.

Fox – ranked at 318 – was spun off from News Corp’s publishing arm in July last year in an effort to free the entertainment business from News Corp’s low growth media assets, which include The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun.

Shareholders have warmed to the demerger, with Fox’s shares rising 19.62 per cent to about $US34.10. But News has also traded in positive territory, rising 5.75 per cent to $18.63, despite the UK phone hacking scandal and subsequent jailing of former editor Andy Coulson for 18 months.

Fox, which was delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange in January, joins eight Australian companies on the Fortune 500 list.

BHP Billiton – the biggest Australian company to make the cut – slid 27 places to be ranked 142 overall. Supermarket-to-coal conglomerate Wesfarmers was next at 158, down from 153 last year. Rival Woolworths was three spots lower at 161.

The big four banks – NAB (216), the Commonwealth (226), Westpac (288), ANZ (352) – and Telstra (453), retained berths on the revenue-ranked list.

Oil producers continued their domination with five companies in the top 10. But Royal Dutch Shell, which has spent the past two years at No.1, slipped to second place after being toppled by retailer Wal-Mart.

“The retailer has ramped up its international focus,” Fortune said. “With Doug McMillon’s start as CEO in 2014, the company has underscored its desire to expand further overseas.

“In fact, the company said that net sales overseas, which accounts for more than 6000 stores, climbed 4.6 per cent to $US140.9 billion ($150 billion) from 2013.”

Fortune said a 4.6 per cent plunge sales helped knock Royal Dutch Shell off the top spot. “Profits, too, dropped nearly 40 per cent for the year after low production, high costs and issues with refining.”

Shell also sold its Geelong refinery, west of Melbourne, and 870 retail sites to Swiss group Vitol for $2.9 billion in February.

Shell chief executive officer Ben van Beurden said at the time the sale was a tough choice, taken to improve the company’s overall competitiveness.

China dominated the list of newcomers to the Fortune 500, with six out of the 23 that made their debut. Businesses ranged from banking to energy and construction. The Asian powerhouse has 95 companies on the list, with combined revenues of $US5.8 trillion.

This compares with the world’s biggest economy, the US, having 128 companies – four fewer than last year – on the list, with combined revenues of $US8.6 trillion.

British defence contractor Rolls-Royce, not to be confused with the luxury car maker owned by BMW, entered the list for the first time, being ranked 489 after its revenue jumped 26 per cent to $US24.2 billion. Fortune highlighted the company’s priority of attracting and retaining more female employees.

The top 500 companies combined revenues totalled $US31.1 trillion, up 2.5 per cent from 2012, while profits soared 27 per cent to nearly $US2 trillion.

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