Moves up from 59th place in 2010 based on boffo sales growth and return on investment
In what Barron's describes as "a tip of the hat" to the corporations that generated the most revenue growth and cash returns in recent years, the magazine moved Apple (AAPL) up 55 spots in its 13th annual ranking of America's 500 largest companies that aren't currently in bankruptcy.
"While such operating success might not generate immediate returns for shareholders," writes Jacqueline Doherty in her introduction, "it suggests management is on its game, and adept at using all available tools to find new markets, control costs and deliver the products and services customers want, need and demand."
"Apple," she continues, "ranked No. 4 this year, has done all that to perfection. It has generated stellar sales growth and handsome profits from the iPod, iPhone and related products, and its shares have rallied 321%, to 347, since the stock market bottomed in March 2009. Yet the stock, which trades for only 12.2 times next year's expected earnings, still isn't richly valued."
Fortune, which issued its list of American's largest 500 companies Friday, ranks corporations strictly by revenues. That produces a very different kind of list, headed this year by Wal-Mart (WMT), Exxon (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) with Apple trailing in 35th place.
Barron's list this year is topped by Oshkosh (OSK), J.M. Smucker (SJM) and Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), with Apple right behind them. It was Apple's C-grade 2009 return on investment that pushed it into 59th place in 2010.
Also on Fortune.com:
[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]
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