Three computer hardware titans, two mammoth petroleum conglomerates, two medical industry players, plus two well-established automotive brands dominate the list of America’s leading export companies.
America’s leading international product suppliers were vetted based on company asset value as of December 2018.
To give some international sales perspective, the United States exported US$1.666 trillion worth of products around the globe in 2018 based on International Trade Centre metrics. That dollar amount reflects a 7.7% increase in value from 2017 to 2018 and a 2.9% improvement from 5 years prior in 2014.
In the analysis below, we compare 10 of America’s top exports-related businesses based on asset values, sales and profitability. Also presented is the U.S. city where each conglomerate has its headquarters.
United States Top 10 Major Export Companies
Below are 10 of the United States’ biggest export companies ordered by asset value. Shown within parentheses is the primary industry in which each company operates. Also shown is the change in asset value as of December 2018 compared to May 2017.
- Apple (computer hardware): $367.5 billion, up 11% from 2017
- ExxonMobil (oil, gas): $348.8 billion, up 5.6%
- Ford Motor (car/truck makers): $267.2 billion, up 12.3%
- Chevron (oil, gas): $256.4 billion, down -1.4%
- General Motors (car/truck makers): $218.7 billion, down -1.4%
- Pfizer (pharmaceuticals): $164.6 billion, down -6.5%
- Johnson & Johnson (medical equipment, supplies): $156.6 billion, up 10.9%
- Cisco Systems (communications equipment): $131.5 billion, up 4.2%
- Intel (semiconductors): $128.6 billion, up 13.5%
- Procter & Gamble (household/personal care items): $124.4 billion, up 6.3%
Best known for trendy computer hardware, Apple maintained its advantage over ExxonMobile as America’s largest international behemoth during 2018 in terms of assets. However, the fastest-growing U.S. business from the above list was chipmaker Intel via its 13.5% gain from 2017 to 2018 compared to an 11% increase for Apple. Other asset increases ranged from 4.2% for tech titan Cisco Systems up to 12.3% for Ford Motor.
Three businesses that endured asset shrinkage were led by pharmaceuticals titan Pfizer (down -6.5%). Oil and gas producer Chevron and automaker General Motors both posted -1.4% declines year over year.
Sales is the life blood of most businesses, and particularly for firms that compete in international trade. Seven among America’s largest export-related companies increased their year-over-year sales as of December 2018.
- Apple: US$247.5 billion, up 13.8% from 2017
- ExxonMobil: $230.1 billion, up 16.5%
- Ford Motor: $159.6 billion, up 5.1%
- General Motors: $144.4 billion, down -13.2%
- Chevron: $139.4 billion, up 26.2%
- Johnson & Johnson: $78.7 billion, up 9.5%
- Procter & Gamble: $66.4 billion, up 1.8%
- Intel: $64 billion, up 7.7%
- Pfizer: $52.7 billion, down -0.2%
- Cisco Systems: $48.1 billion, down -1%
Chevron posted the fastest increase in sales during 2018, up a robust 26.2% from 2017. In second place was energy-sector giant ExxonMobil (up 16.5%) followed by technology sector icon Apple (up 13.8%), diversified conglomerate Johnson & Johnson (up 9.5%) then venerable chipmaker Intel (up 7.7%).
Declines ranged from a modest -0.2% for Pfizer down to a -13.2% sales setback for General Motors.
Six of America’s 10 largest export-related companies grew their profits as of December 2018 compared to the period one year earlier.
- Apple: US$53.3 billion, up 17.9% from 2017
- Pfizer: $21.7 billion, up 32.3%
- ExxonMobil: $20.4 billion, up 98.1%
- Intel: $11.1 billion, up 13.3%
- Chevron: $10.2 billion, up 7.4%
- Procter & Gamble: $10.1 billion, up 7.4%
- Ford Motor: $7.8 billion, no change
- Johnson & Johnson: $1.2 billion, down -83.1%
- Cisco Systems: -$1.4 billion, reversing $4.6 billion in profit for 2017
- General Motors: -$3.2 billion, expanding by 543.9%
Via its 98.1% improvement from 2017, ExxonMobil led with the strongest gain in profitability as of December 2018. Other double-digit gainers were Pfizer (up 32.3%), Apple (17.9%) and Intel (up 13.3%).
Experiencing the severest loss increase was General Motors which posted -$3.2 billion in red ink accelerating a -$497 million loss from one year earlier. An even bigger loser was Cisco Systems which went from a $4.6 billion profit in 2017 to -$1.4 billion in red ink as reported in 2018. Johnson & Johnson saw its profits reduced by -83.1% from $7.1 billion in black ink for 2017 to $1.2 billion in profit for the latest period.
Four of the 10 largest American export companies are based in the state of California, a digital-technology leader. Michigan is the home office state for two storied automotive conglomerates, namely Ford and General Motors.
- Apple: Cupertino, California
- Chevron: San Ramon, California
- Cisco Systems: San Jose, California
- ExxonMobil: Irving, Texas
- Ford Motor: Dearborn, Michigan
- General Motors: Detroit, Michigan
- Intel: Santa Clara, California
- Johnson & Johnson: New Brunswick, New Jersey
- Pfizer: New York, New York
- Procter & Gamble: Cincinnati, Ohio
Note: Some of the above company offerings may include products other than the principal category shown within parenthesis under the Assets tab.
For example, Apple not only manufactures computer hardware but also markets software applications and operating systems. Similarly, Johnson & Johnson produces not only medical supplies but also personal care hygienic goods and surgical equipment.
See also United States Top 10 Exports, Top United States Trade Balances and America’s Top 20 Export States
Data.World Forbes Global 2000, Spreadsheet for 2016 Global 2000 rankings. Accessed on October 1, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of top US company compiled for this study: ExxonMobil. Accessed on October 1, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings for the United States, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 1, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 1, 2019
Wikipedia, List of largest companies by market capitalization. Accessed on October 1, 2019
Wikipedia, List of largest companies by revenue. Accessed on October 1, 2019