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Raindrops are seen in front of an Apple logo outside an Apple store in Shanghai February 22, 2012. (ALY SONG/ALY SONG/REUTERS)
Raindrops are seen in front of an Apple logo outside an Apple store in Shanghai February 22, 2012. (ALY SONG/ALY SONG/REUTERS)

The secret life of very big companies Add to ...

Following the Forbes list of billionaires, Bespoke Investment Group has decided to make a list of its own – though its list looks at U.S. companies that have market capitalizations of more than $100-billion (U.S.). There are 24 of them, ranging from Schlumberger Ltd., which barely makes the grade, to Apple Inc. , which is currently the world’s biggest company based on market cap.

To make things a little more interesting, Bespoke has also looked at the percentage change in their market caps over the past 10 years. This is an important topic right now because some observers are wondering if Apple can maintain its blistering growth now that it has grown so large.

As you might have guessed, Apple’s 10-year growth in market cap is also at the top of this billionaire list, at more than 5,600 per cent. If you exclude Apple as an outlier, the average growth is 43 per cent – which is about what you might expect for a mega-mega-cap company: It is modest growth that suggests mature, stable businesses, but it beats the S&P 500’s gain of 17 per cent over the past 10 years.

What’s more surprising, though, is that the overall average masks a wide range. Nine companies have seen their market caps shrink over the past decade. These include Microsoft Corp. , General Electric Co. and Intel Corp. . And three companies – JPMorgan Chase & Co. , Qualcomm Inc. and Schlumberger have produced triple-digit gains.

What does it mean for Apple? Being very large doesn’t necessarily mean slow growth ahead – but forget about a repeat of the past 10 years. To do so would boost its share price to about $30,000 and take its market cap to $28,500-billion. Good luck with that.

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