The Fortune 500

April 3, 2002

Countrywide Credit, Fidelity National, FirstAm Now Among Biggest Companies In America

Inman News Features

It?s a ranking to which many a small company aspires, that is, to be known?officially?as "a Fortune 500 company." The annual list of America?s biggest companies, researched and reported by Fortune magazine, appeared in the publisher?s April issue.

A number of prominent residential real estate companies made the cut this year, many returning from one or more prior appearances among the top 500 names.

Four companies?#18 Home Depot, #19 Bank of America, #20 Fannie Mae and #41 Freddie Mac?made it into the top 10 percent and four others--#62 Prudential Financial, #64 Wells Fargo, #79 BankOne Corp. and #94 Lowe?s--cracked the top 20 percent. The boom in home sales benefited the Home Depot and Lowe?s home improvement chains while plunging interest rates that triggered a boom in new and refinanced mortgage loans spurred on the financial institutions.

Ranked lower, but still well within the prestigious 500 were #116 Washington Mutual, #217 Cendant Corp., #281 Centex, #298 Lennar, #324 Pulte Homes, #368 D.R. Horton #345 Countrywide Credit Industries and #355 KB Home.

Eight other home builders made the cut for the Fortune 1,000. They were #535 Ryland Group, #556 NVR, #644 Toll Brothers, #663 MDC Holdings, #757 Beazer Homes USA, #774 Hovnanian Enterprises, #828 Champion Enterprises and #900 Standard Pacific.

Countrywide and two competitors in the title insurance industry--#426 Fidelity National Financial and #437 First American Corp.?appeared on the list for the first time this year.

Fidelity National Chairman and CEO William P. Foley II said the company was "thrilled" to have made the list.

"Fidelity became a public company in 1987 with less than $100 million in total revenue. Our company has grown tremendously over the last 15 years, and this honor is a tribute to the incredible effort and dedication of all of our 17,600 employees," he said in a statement.

Manufactured home maker Fleetwood Enterprise ranked #447 on last year?s list, but this time was among the group Fortune refers to as "displaced" from the rankings.

One new economy-style dot-com company also made the list. It was #492

The exclusive top 10 were #1 Wal-Mart Stores, #2 Exxon Mobil, #3 General Motors, #4 Ford Motor, #5 Enron, #6 General Electric, #7 Citigroup, #8 Chevron Texaco, #9 IBM and #10 Philip Morris.

The publishers said Wal-Mart's leap to the top of the list was emblematic of a years-long economic shift from manufacturing to services. Wal-Mart didn?t even exist when first Fortune list of America?s largest corporations was published in 1955. General Motors was America's biggest company in that year, and either GM or Exxon topped the list in every year since then. But today, Wal-Mart is on top and 64 of the top 100 are service companies.

"How did a peddler of cheap shirts and fishing rods become the mightiest corporation in America?," asks Cait Murphy, who wrote Fortune?s introduction to this year's list. "The short version of Wal-Mart's rise to glory goes something like this: In 1979 it racked up a billion dollars in sales. By 1993 it did that much business in a week; by 2001 it could do it in a day."

The high ranking of bankrupt and beleaguered Enron?even during what Fortune called "a year of accounting weirdness"?evidently was the cause of some angst on the part of Fortune?s editors, who published a sidebar, "Why the heck is Enron on the list?" to explain the financial rationale for the inclusion.

Copyright: Inman News Service

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