by Kyle Woodley | April 11, 2012 8:30 am
“Size isn’t everything, but it sure is fun.”
The phrase might sound like a glib remark from a late-night Showtime movie, but it’s also an apt way of summing up some of the ludicrous numbers that get thrown around on Wall Street.
The most recent example: On Tuesday, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) briefly reached a brain-tickling market capitalization — a measure of public opinion of a company’s worth calculated by multiplying outstanding shares times share price — of $600 billion.
Needless to say, that means Apple is worth a lot of money. In fact, by market cap, it’s the most valuable company in the world. And when you’re the world’s most valuable company, laughable comparisons come along with the territory. For instance, Barron’s Brendan Conway points out that Apple is bigger than the entire S&P SmallCap 600. David Gilbert at International Business Times notes that Apple is bigger than, among other things, the National Football League and Poland’s GDP.
Of course, another way to examine Apple’s giant bucket of commas and zeroes — as well as those for other blue-chip titans — is alongside its own Wall Street counterparts. And that’s when you start to get a concept of how truly enormous these valuations are.
For instance …
Apple is worth more than the major U.S. carriers that have helped shill and provide phone and data service for the company’s hit iPhone and iPad.
AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint (NYSE:S), which are responsible for more than 250 million wireless subscribers in the U.S., combine for a total market cap of about $290 billion, or roughly half Apple’s worth. More astoundingly, Apple’s market cap is three times that of AT&T, about six times greater than Verizon and a whopping 73 times greater than Sprint.
Even when you toss in China’s iPhone-licensed carriers — China Unicom (NYSE:CHU, $39.6B) and China Telecom (NYSE:CHA, $43.2B) — you still come up a couple hundred billion dollars short. In fact, the roughly $226 billion difference would be more than enough to buy America’s largest bank by assets, JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM, $164.9B), and a little-known coffee outfit called Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX, $42.9B).
Of course, Apple isn’t the only company with a mind-bending market cap.
Integrated oil giant Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) is the country’s No. 2 company by market cap at about $390 billion and now the world’s No. 2 oil producer after being nudged from the top spot by PetroChina (NYSE:PTR). Gargantuan, thy name is Exxon.
In fact, Exxon’s business is so sizable that it tops the combined market cap (roughly $300 billion) of the 45 oil equipment and services companies in the Dow Jones U.S. Oil Equipment & Services Index Fund (NYSE:IEZ), which includes standard-bearers like Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB, $89.5B), National-Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV, $32.5B), Halliburton (NYSE:HAL, $29.5B) and Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI, $17.3B).
Priceline.com (NASDAQ:PCLN) is an online travel company that deals in all sorts of reservations, from hotels and airline tickets to car rentals and cruises — and numerous packages in between. And at $38 billion, PCLN’s market cap might not come close to Apple or Exxon, but it’s still pretty clear that Priceline is big business.
How big? Well, for one, it’s far greater than the combined market caps of the four major U.S. airline carriers.
Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), $8.7 billion
United Continental (NYSE:UAL), $7 billion
Southwest (NYSE:LUV), $6.35 billion
US Airways (NYSE:LCC), $1.25 billion
Total: $23.3 billion
In other words, these carriers total about $15 billion less than PCLN — an even more impressive thought considering that Priceline’s large sum revolves around all of 3,400 employees, versus almost a quarter-million across DAL, UAL, LUV and LCC. And even if you threw in Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK, $2.5B), pre-bankruptcy AMR (PINK:AAMRQ, est. $1.5B) and JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU, $1.35B), Priceline still would be worth more by market cap.
Lastly, there’s Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). Coca-Cola is the world’s top beverage company and offers more than 500 ways to quench your thirst. And at $164 billion, its market cap is greater than most of the brands that peddle its wares. That includes supermarkets Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM, $15B), Kroger (NYSE:KR, $13.6B), Safeway (NYSE:SWY, $5.9B), The Fresh Market (NASDAQ:TFM, $2.3B) and Harris Teeter (NASDAQ:HTSI, $1.8B) …
… and dollar-store outfits Dollar General (NYSE:DG, $15.5B), Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR, $11B) and Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO, $7.4B)…
… and even super-retailers Costco (NASDAQ:COST, $37.6B) and Target (NYSE:TGT, $38B).
In fact, about the only retailer dealing in food that you can’t lump in is Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), which at a market cap of $205 billion also dwarfs the field, as well as Coke.
Kyle Woodley is the assistant editor of InvestorPlace.com and thinks work occasionally can be fun. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Follow him on Twitter at @KyleWoodley.
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