Top 5 Richest Companies of 2012

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Rich can be in the eye of the beholder. Companies like Apple have a huge market capitalization—which is the total value of all the outstanding shares of stock for a company—but don’t do near as much business as other companies. Since the market cap has to do with stock value, it’s only tangentially related to the actual wealth of the company. Kind of like saying that Tiger Woods’ ability to sell video games makes him the best golfer in the world. The “Fortune” 500 list uses a better approach that balances factors like revenue, assets and market cap.

5 General Motors

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After the financial collapse of 2008, things were looking bleak for Detroit and its car companies. But thanks to some innovative cars—like the Chevy Volt—the bailout money from the federal government and Eminem’s song paired with Clint Eastwood’s voice-over, General Motors is back in the black. Though Detroit is still in dire straits, the heartbeat is getting stronger again with GM, and the other car companies, showing profits again. As long as they don’t add chaff like Saturn again, things should continue to look up for the carmaker.

4 ConocoPhillips

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Even though the company split into two in 2012, the remaining value in Phillips 66 still makes it the fourth richest company in the world. Drilling, refining and selling oil products is a booming business and netted ConocoPhillips $12.4 billion in 2012. Jed Clampett would be proud of the Houston-based company’s ability to profit on the Texas tea. The rising cost of oil does nothing but help the profits of the world’s oil companies.

3 Chevron

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Proving that it’s good to sell what people can’t live without, Chevron is the third-richest company in the world, grossing more than $245 billion in 2011. Though it faces legal battles and cleanup costs around the globe, Chevron continues to rake in the cash and bask in the profits. However, if cleanliness is next to godliness, as the adage would have us believe, then Chevron has some work to do with spills, leaks and general oily messiness around the world.

2 Wal-Mart

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Known as “Wally World,” whether affectionately or derisively, the company that Sam Walton built is the second richest in the world. The pride of Arkansas raked in more than $446 billion in revenue in 2011, but made just $15.7 billion in profit due to deep discounts. Word has it that the bouncing yellow smiley-face is being hunted down by Wal-Mart security to prevent further price-cuts and increase profitability in years to come.

1 ExxonMobil

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It’s good to be No. 1, and Exxon Mobil is making the best of it with $453 billion in revenue. The oil company is leading the way in accessing new oil reserves through high-pressure water fracturing methods know as fracking. With global oil prices continuing to rise, previously unprofitable reserves of oil are worth the cost and only add to the overall income and profits of the richest company in the world. We just won’t tell them that “fracking” is a bad word on “Battlestar Galactica.”

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