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UPDATED: September 19, 2011 NO. 38 SEPTEMBER 22, 2011
Large but Less Competitive
China's top 500 companies continue to grow in scale, but they lack the inventiveness to compete with global giants

OIL GIANT: Sinopec's natural gas production facility in Dazhou, Sichuan Province. Sinopec Group tops the 2011 China 500 list (DENG LIANGKUI)

The 2011 list of top 500 Chinese companies was jointly released by the China Enterprise Confederation (CEC) and the China Enterprise Directors Association on September 3 in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. It is the 10th such list since its launch in 2002.

Oil refiner Sinopec Group topped the list, followed by oil and gas producer China National Petroleum Corp. and State Grid Corp.

Compared with the 2010 list, the threshold for making this year's list was raised from 11.08 billion yuan ($1.73 billion) to 14.2 billion yuan ($2.22 billion).

The number of members in the "100-billion-yuan club" reached 80, 17 more than in 2010. Besides the top three, another 77 companies, including nine privately owned enterprises (POEs), saw their sales revenues surpass 100 billion yuan ($15.65 billion).

Aggregate revenues of China's top 500 companies in 2010 rose by 31.6 percent year on year to 36.31 trillion yuan ($5.68 billion), and their total assets increased by 18.4 percent to 108.1 trillion yuan ($15.93 billion).

These companies recorded profits of 2.08 trillion yuan ($325.51 billion) in 2010, an increase of 38.67 percent from the previous year. They paid 2.73 trillion yuan ($427.23 billion) in taxes last year, accounting for 37.3 percent of the country's total tax revenue in 2010.

Meanwhile, the number of Chinese companies incorporated into the world top 500 is increasing quickly. Among the 2011 world top 500 there are 58 companies from the Chinese mainland, 15 more than last year. In comparison, only 10 Chinese enterprises ranked on the world top 500 in 2002.

From 2002 to 2011, the sales revenue of China's top 500 increased by an annual average of 22 percent, much higher than the 6.9-percent growth of the world top 500 and 4.1 percent of the U.S. top 500.

"Judging by the past 10 years, large Chinese enterprises are not at all disappointing compared with large enterprises in the United States and the world," said Wang Zhongyu, CEC chairman.

However, there is still a huge gap between China's top 500 and the world's large multinationals.

Short on competitiveness

According to a report of the People's Daily, the average lifespan of China's top 500 stands at just 23 years, and their average sales revenue is only 45.6 percent that of the world top 500.

Meanwhile, among the biggest 10 industries where China's top 500 are distributed, half are monopoly industries or monopolized resource exploitation and utilization industries, such as oil, power, telecommunications and iron industries.

Most of the profits of large Chinese companies are from resource monopoly, scale operation and low costs. This year the biggest 10 profit earners of China's top 500 are all from the state-owned financial sector and monopoly enterprises, while many of the most profitable industries where U.S. top 500 are distributed are technology-intensive ones, such as pharmaceuticals, computer and software.

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