Reflecting the global digital revolution, the leader in both sales and asset growth among these world-class Chinese businesses was iconic ecommerce portal Alibaba.
To give some context from an international trade perspective, the value of China’s exported goods appreciated by 9.5% from US$2.282 trillion in 2015 to $2.499 trillion reported for 2019. From 2018 to 2019, sales of Chinese exported products appreciated by 0.2%.
In the analysis below, we compare 10 of China’s major exports-related businesses based on asset values, sales and profitability. Also specified is the Chinese city where multinational has its headquarters. Excluded are Chinese financial institutions or multinationals headquartered in China’s Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong.
China’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Below are China’s biggest export companies organized 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 2019 compared to 2018.
- PetroChina (oil, gas): US$392.3 billion, up 2.9% from 2018
- Sinopec (oil, gas): $254.8 billion, up 2%
- Alibaba (global commerce): $189.4 billion, up 66.1%
- SAIC Motor (car/truck makers): $121.9 billion, up 3%
- Fosun International (iron, steel): $102.7 billion, up 25.2%
- China Shenhua Energy (coal, electricity): $80.8 billion, down -11.4%
- China National Building (construction materials): $64.1 billion, up 20.3%
- CRRC (heavy equipment): $55.9 billion, down -5.6%
- Baoshan Iron & Steel (iron, steel): $48.3 billion, down -14.1%
- China Shipbuilding Industry (heavy equipment): $26.2 billion, down -18.1%
Six of the above Chinese multinationals grew their asset values from 2018 to 2019. The fastest grower was global e-commerce pioneer Alibaba via its 66.1% advance. The other double-digit gains belong to iron and steel producer Fosun International (up 25.2%) and construction materials supplier China National Building (up 20.3%).
There were four decliners year over yea: heavy equipment firm China Shipbuilding Industry (down -18.1%), Baoshan Iron & Steel (down -14.1%), coal and electricity producer China Shenhua Energy (down -11.4%) and heavy equipment specialist CRRC (down -5.6%).
In terms of overall sales, behemoths from the oil and gas sectors placed number one and number two for greatest overall revenues at December 2019.
- Sinopec: US$369.2 billion, up 13% from 2018
- PetroChina: $364.1 billion, up 28.9%
- SAIC Motor: $121.1 billion, down -11.3%
- Alibaba: $70.6 billion, up 86.3%
- Baoshan Iron & Steel: $43 billion, up 5.7%
- China National Building: $36.6 billion, up 92.6%
- China Shenhua Energy: $35 billion, down -3.8%
- CRRC: $31.7 billion, up 1.3%
- Fosun International: $20.7 billion, up 58%
- China Shipbuilding Industry: $5.5 billion, up 7.8%
Expanding their annual sales at the fastest rate were construction materials giant China National Building (up 92.6%), ecommerce colossus Alibaba (up 86.3%) then iron and steel competitor Fosun International (up 58%).
Facing year-over-year sales declines were automobile maker SAIC Motor (down -11.3%) and coal and electricity supplier China Shenhua Energy (down -3.8%).
All 10 of China’s exports-related major businesses were profitable at December 2019. Yet 6 among these experienced shrinkage in their most recent profit amount compared to one year earlier.
- Alibaba: US$24.7 billion, up 157.3% from 2018
- PetroChina: $6.6 billion, up 61%
- China Shenhua Energy: $6.1 billion, down -9%
- SAIC Motor: $3.7 billion, down -31.5%
- Sinopec: $3.3 billion, down -58.8%
- Baoshan Iron & Steel: $2.1 billion, down -32.3%
- Fosun International: $2.1 billion, up 5%
- China National Building: $1.6 billion, up 232%
- CRRC: $1.5 billion, down -6.3%
- China Shipbuilding Industry: $72.5 million, down -42.5%
Growing their profits by triple-digit percentage increases from 2018 to 2019 were construction materials supplier China National Building (up 232%) and ecommerce leader Alibaba (up 157.3%). The other two gainers were energy sector leader PetroChina (up 61%) and iron and steel producer Fosun International (up 5%).
Four of these multinationals saw their profits fall by double digits year over year: Sinopec (down -58.8%), China Shipbuilding Industry (down -42.5%), Baoshan Iron & Steel (down -32.3%) and SAIC Motor (down -31.5%).
Six of the 10 largest Chinese export companies are based in Beijing, the capital city for the People’s Republic of China. Three other conglomerates have their headquarters in one of China’s other major cities, namely Shanghai.
- Alibaba: Hangzhou
- Baoshan Iron & Steel: Shanghai
- China National Building: Beijing
- China Shenhua Energy: Beijing
- China Shipbuilding Industry: Beijing
- CRRC: Beijing
- Fosun International: Shanghai
- PetroChina: Beijing
- SAIC Motor: Shanghai
- Sinopec: Beijing
Note: Some of the above company offerings may include products beyond the principal category shown within parenthesis under the Assets tab.
For example, PetroChina is well-known for supplying crude oil and natural gas but also refines petroleum products, creates chemical goods and transports natural gas, crude oil and refined petroleum. As well, the energy giant offers business services such as research and development, cash management and financing related to its principal businesses.
See also China’s Top 10 Exports, China’s Top 10 Imports, Largest Oil and Gas Export Companies and Top Chinese Trade Balances
Forbes Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of largest China-based export company compiled for this study: PetroChina. Accessed on August 28, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings list , The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 28, 2020
Forbes 2018 Global 2000, The Largest Companies in China in 2018. Accessed on August 28, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 28, 2020
MarketWatch, China National Building Material Co. Ltd, Annual Financials. Accessed on August 28, 2020
Wikipedia, List of largest Chinese companies. Accessed on August 28, 2020