MCI WorldCom vaulted from the 71st to the 14th largest company in the world in rankings of the top 100 companies listed recently in Business Week magazine.
MCI WorldCom’s 1999 market value of $152.24 billion put the Mississippi-based company in the top ranks of the business world. Microsoft was up from number two to number one with a value of $407 billion. General Electric left the top spot for number two at $333 billion followed by Exxon at $194 billion and Royal Dutch/Shell, the only non-American company in the top five, at $191 billion.
Wal-Mart Stores, AT&T, Intel, Cisco Systems and BP Amoco rounded out the top 10. Business Week headlined their series on the world’s top companies “Call It The Net Effect” because the biggest influence on this year’s rankings was the Internet.
Cisco Systems, a worldwide leader in providing networking equipment for the Internet, went from 30 to nine. Cisco provides networking equipment for the State of Mississippi and numerous other clients in Mississippi. Another Internet company, America Online, went from 229 to 20 in just one year.
WorldCom’s jump in the rankings reflected the merger with MCI.
“Certainly, since the last ranking, the MCIWorldCom merger was completed, and that is part of the big jump,” said Barbara Gibson, spokesperson for MCI WorldCom. “But it is also a reflection of the company’s strategic objective to be the most profitable single-source provider of communications services to customers around the world. MCI WorldCom has the highest producing sales force, and the fastest growing earnings in the industry. And that all translates into outstanding growth and value for our shareholders.”
Gibson said the high value of MCI WorldCom reflects consumer confidence in the company’s stock, and its potential for continued growth.
“Our growth has been consistent year after year,” Gibson said. “Since 1992 our shareholders have seen more than a 100-fold growth in value.”
Gibson said there is still sometimes surprise that a major world company is based in Mississippi. But she said as the business world becomes more global, it becomes less of an issue where a company is based. “We are a global communications company proud to be based in Mississippi,” she said.
American companies greatly dominate the top 100 list accounting for 61 of the top 100 companies. According to Business Week, American companies have seen their stock prices rise about 39% in the last decade, and they now account for 57% of the world’s publicly invested capital.
A number of telecommunications companies are among the world’s largest businesses including BellSouth, which increased from being ranked 44 in 1998 to 36 in 1999. Larry L. Johnson, vice president of public affairs for BellSouth, said the company’s climb in the rankings can be attributed to investor confidence that the company has the right strategies to grow.
“We are implementing our business plans to be the telecommunications leader in the Southeast by offering our customers great service,” Johnson said. “We also plan to continue to expand our domestic wireless operations and to grow our international business, particularly in South America.”
Another top 100 company with a major presence in Mississippi is Chevron. Chevron employs 1,200 people with an annual payroll of $165 million at the Chevron Pascagoula Refinery, which is Chevron’s largest refinery and one of the top 10 refineries in the U.S. The refinery processes an average of 295,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Gasoline represents 38% of the refinery with an average of 5.5 million gallons of per day processed at the refinery. Other products include diesel at 18%, jet fuel, 17%, other petroleum products including LPG, 21%, and chemicals, 6%.
Chevron has a market value of $60.46 billion, and has invested more than $2 billion in the Pascagoula refinery since 1963. Mississippi spending by Chevron is estimated at more than $80 million per year. Depending on current work projects, contractor employment at the refinery can vary between 200 and 1,000 during the year.
Hurricane Georges in 1998 was a major blow to the refinery, placing it under four to five feet of salt water.
“We were down all of October and November, and it took all of December to start up,” said Steve Renfroe, public affairs manager for Chevron in Mississippi. “We were out of commission for about three months. We do have insurance, but the property damage deductible was $15 million. We didn’t have any trouble meeting the $15-million deductible. Because of the salt water, much of the refinery had to be replaced, particularly pumps, motors and electrical equipment.”
Although Chevron recently announced job cuts of 2,500, the Pascagoula refinery has not been affected.
“Business in the oil patch has been pretty tough, and has been for a while as evidenced by all the mergers that have taken place,” Renfroe said. “We work in a very competitive industry. Those mergers were done for those companies to become more competitive. So it is our challenge to become more competitive at the same time so we have to be looking for ways to reduce costs while protecting the environment, and running safely and reliably.
“Like all the other oil companies, it is big challenge for Chevron to remain profitable. We are cutting back where we can, but we expect the workforce in Pascagoula to remain stable while 2,500 jobs are being cut in other places throughout the corporation. I think that is good news for Mississippi. This is a top refinery, and that speaks well of the employees who work here and live in the area.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.