Not all of the largest and richest companies in the world call developed nations home. In emerging nations, mega-corporations help to stabilize the economy and provide employment. As developing nations become more affluent, it's no surprise that many of the richest companies are banks and financial institutions; most have offices around the world. The so-called BRICS developing nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are home to some of the largest corporations.
Banco do Brasil (Brazil)
According to Forbes, Banco do Brasil is not only the largest bank in Brazil with assets of around US$516 billion, but it's also the largest bank in all of Latin America. Born in 1808 via Brazil's Portuguese vice-regent at the time, it has acted like a central bank by issuing currency and creating a treasury. The Brazilian government controls the bank, but shares trade on the country's stock market. Banco do Brasil deals in both commercial and retail banking and has several international branches, including one in New York City and one in Miami.
Not only is Gazprom the richest company in Russia, it is the largest natural gas extractor in the world. With assets of just under US$303 billion, it surpasses even the country's largest banks. Gazprom began its life in 1989 when the Soviet Union's Ministry of Gas Industry became a corporation with all of its assets transferred. The Russian government still owns a controlling share of the company, although some of it is now privatized. Today, Gazprom accounts for approximately 10% of Russia's gross domestic product.
State Bank of India Group (India)
This monolithic bank, with assets of US$369 billion, is the largest on the Indian subcontinent. It was created in 1806 by royal British charter as the Bank of Calcutta. Over time, it has merged with other Indian banks and is currently still controlled by the Indian government. According to a case study done by Team Computers, SBI has over 18,000 branches in India and 157 international offices in 32 countries. Subsidiaries include investment banking and insurance companies. SBI accounts for approximately one-fifth of India's lending activity.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is ranked by Forbes as the fifth largest company in the world, and the 17th based on assets of nearly US$2.04 trillion. ICBC has only been in existence since 2005. In 2006, it executed the largest initial public offering at the time, raising US$21.9 billion. Reuters reports that ICBC has been plagued by loan losses over the years and, in 2011, Goldman Sachs sold off a large portion of its ICBC holdings. The bank is the largest of China's four state-controlled banks.
Standard Bank Group (South Africa)
Standard Bank of South Africa was originally set up as a subsidiary of the Standard Bank in Britain in 1862. It grew exponentially with the discovery of diamonds and gold in South Africa and was instrumental in the financing of the Kimberley diamond fields in 1867. In 1987, the British parent sold its remaining stake in Standard Bank Group to SA investors. With assets of US$185 billion, the bank stands head and shoulders above the second largest bank in the country. In 2008, ICBC purchased a 20% stake in Standard for approximately US$5.5 billion.
The Bottom Line
Developing countries host their fair share of large multi-national corporations. As countries grow their gross national product, develop technology and increase their standard of living, more opportunities exist for businesses to grow and to take their place on the world stage as some of the largest companies in the world.
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