Apple grew its revenue 52 per cent to $65 billion in the fiscal year that ended last September. [Reuters]
Pioneering technology company Apple has dethroned oil giant ExxonMobil as the most valuable company in the world, based on the value of its stock.
Despite an overall dismal Wednesday on the stock exchange, Apple ended trading with its stock priced at $363.69 per share for a total "market capitalisation" of $337.2 billion, news agencies reported.
Apple dethroned software giant Microsoft last year to become the largest US technology player, and the California company's rise to most valuable company was seen as remarkable given that it was floundering about 15 years ago.
Instead, Apple stock has risen steadily over the past few years as chief executive Steve Jobs piloted the release of a string of hit products.
Apple now occupies a coveted spot once held by General Electric and rival Microsoft. Exxon had held the top spot since 2005.
Founded in 1976
The power shift is a substantial milestone for Apple, which has enjoyed a triumphant comeback since the 1990s, when it struggled to stay afloat before its co-founder Jobs returned to take the helm.
But it's not just the comeback. Analyst Brian Marshall told the Associated Press that Apple is giving investors something that has never been seen before.
Apple's numbers are huge, with $30 billion in revenue in the latest quarter, for example. Yet Marshall said the 35-year-old company is "growing like a startup".
"Even in 2008 and 2009 Apple grew like a weed and the world was coming to an end,'' Marshall said.
Apple grew its net income 70 per cent to $14 billion and its revenue 52 per cent to $65 billion in the fiscal year that ended last September.
A year earlier, even as other companies were reeling from the economic meltdown, Apple's earnings grew 35 per cent and its revenue 14 per cent.
The company, known as Apple Computer Inc when it was founded in 1976, was on a steep decline before Jobs returned in 1997.
People want their gadgets, especially those made by Apple, even in a recession and even as they watch their stock portfolios and retirement funds shrink.
Still, Apple commands just a sliver of the overall smartphone and computer market. For that reason, Apple can grow at such a fast pace.
"They have just a tremendous runway in front of them,'' Marshall said.
Exxon, which set a record in 2008 for the highest quarterly earnings by any company, will find it hard to compete with Apple's growth because its prospects are tethered to oil prices and new oil discovery.
Apple's growth is limited only by innovation. Investors expect it to grow as long as it keeps making products that people want. So investors are betting on Apple's stock even though it currently makes less money than
International companies that vie for the most valuable spot include PetroChina Co, the publicly traded unit of China's biggest oil and gas company, and Petrobras, Brazil's state-controlled energy company.