Hail to the king, baby.
Tech stocks have been among the leaders of the 2012 pack, and now a gaggle of them have landed atop Fortune’s list of the world’s most admired companies, based on an annual survey of businesspeople.
A number of big-time stocks get a round of applause for heading up their sectors. Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) led industrial and farm equipment companies, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) topped petroleum refiners, America’s largest bank JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) also took the big-bank top spot, and Target (NYSE:TGT) took the taco among general retailers.
But the overall top five most admired companies were dominated by motherboards and URLs, with one beverage company sneaking in to help wash it all down. Here’s a look at Fortune’s 2012 list of the five most admired companies. A full list of breakdowns by industries and locations, among others, can be found here.
No. 5: IBM
International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), which took top honors in information technology services once again, has seen its stock steadily climb since the recession to all-time highs, and currently is flirting with the $200 mark.
Fortune praises IBM’s record annual profits ($15.9 billion) last year — mostly fueled by success in the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The company continues to thrive after jettisoning its personal computer business and focusing on services and the cloud. And IBM continues to boast one of the world’s top patent hoards.
No. 4: Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) — the world’s beverage juggernaut — is the only non-tech to break the top five. And “beverage” is the key word. Fortune points out that Coca-Cola is a lot more than just, well, Coca-Cola. It’s a brand machine. Mello Yellow, Minute Made, Nestea, Full Throttle, Seagram’s, Powerade and a host of others fall under the red-and-white umbrella, and have kept Coca-Cola the leader in beverage market share.
Coca-Cola has endured a rocky 2012. Following a dip in mid-January, KO shares have clawed their way back to near the break-even point. Meanwhile, the company offers a nearly 3% dividend.
No. 3: Amazon
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is the Internet everyman. Bookseller. Then everything-seller. Now tech gadget maker. And along the way, risk-taker.
Fortune points out that Amazon has been willing to sacrifice in the short term (for instance, the losses it’s taking on its Kindle Fire tablets) in hopes of making long-term gains by putting the power of Amazon buying in more people’s hands. The company took huge hits in both its fourth-quarter and full-year 2011 earnings, despite impressive gains in revenue. Amazon is up about 3% on the year, but still well underperforming the S&P 500.
No. 2: Google
Search engine Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) did a heck of a lot last year that didn’t have much to do with search engines. Fortune points out a laundry list of activities, including the purchases of Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) and Zagat, the launch of Google+ and updates to its major service portals Gmail, YouTube and Google Reader. And despite a leadership transition, the stock still managed to make a modest 8% gain in 2011.
No. 1: Apple
Everyone be stunned. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is the best at something.
Fortune lauds the company’s performance since the loss of Steve Jobs. Tim Cook so far has steered the ship right, as AAPL shares have soared past the $500 mark and beyond. In just two months, Apple’s stock has gained 33%, though last year’s 25% growth was nothing to sneeze at, either.
The rampant performance has come on skyrocketing sales of the iPhone and iPad, which powered phenomenal earnings. Apple’s profits grew almost 120% in the most recent quarter. The company has become a market force in and of itself, so its place at the top of the heap seems well-deserved.
— Kyle Woodley, InvestorPlace Assistant Editor