Asia’s top companies have been buffeted over the past year by surging crude oil prices, Japan’s earthquake and nuclear crisis, and the flood and cyclone disasters in Australia.
But with record profits, strong economic growth and plenty of help from the liquidity provided by the world’s central banks, these firms have continued to increase their value.
According to market capitalization data from Reuters, 11 of the top 20 most valuable Asian companies are Chinese, as of April 14, 2011. Nearly half a dozen of them are Australian firms; three are Japanese and one each Indian and South Korean.
Click ahead to see the full list of Asia's most valuable companies.
Market Cap: $67.2 Billion
Japan’s largest bank and financial group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), has seen its value fall by 22 percent over the past year.
In recent weeks, the bank has been trying to cope with the aftermath of the March 11th earthquake. The crisis could actually boost weak loan demand in Japan. MUFJ said it had received applications for up to $32 billion in loans in the first two weeks after the tsunami.
A joint venture unit of the bank is facing a nearly $1 billion loss from its bond trading business, according to the Nikkei newspaper.
Market Cap: $70.4 Billion
Ping An Insurance reported a 25 percent increase in full-year profits at the end of March. Over the last year, the shares have gained 25 percent.
Founded in 1988 by current Chairman Peter Ma, Ping An began as a pure property casualty insurer and grew rapidly to become the second-largest insurer in the country, after state-owned China Life. In recent years, however, it’s been restructuring with the aim of becoming a financial conglomerate. In 2010, it bought a stake in Shenzhen Development Bank for $4.3 billion, gaining majority control of the lender.
Market Cap: $75.7 Billion
India’s largest company by market capitalization has lost about 9 percent of its value over the last year as it faced difficulties meeting production targets in its oil and gas division. But its big move was a $7.2 billion joint venture with BP, signed earlier this year.
Reliance recorded annual revenues of $44 billion in 2010. Its business empire spans the oil and gas, chemicals, retail and telecommunications industries. The company is run by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man (L) and the ninth richest man in the world according to Forbes. Ambani hit the headlines for building a 27-storey, $1 billion home for himself in Mumbai called Antilla.
Market Cap: $77.1 Billion
Japan’s largest mobile phone operator has 57 million customers in its domestic market. But it’s been facing growing competition from Softbank, the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in Japan.
Created in 1992 after being spun off from incumbent national telephone company NTT, the company has also been expanding globally, investing an additional $176 million recently in India’s Tata Teleservices, in which it owns 26 percent.
Market Cap: $78.2 Billion
One of Australia’s big four banks, Westpac was formed in 1982 with the merger of Bank of New South Wales and Commercial Bank of Australia. The lender has lost nearly 10 percent of its value over the past year. Fear that Australia’s expensive property market could deflate has worried investors, along with the rising cost of funding for the banking sector.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has kept rates on hold for the last five months, easing pressure on the sector. And, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, after plenty of worries in 2010 and public anger over higher mortgage rates, Westpac is seeing its asset quality improving.
Market Cap: $86 Billion
Australia’s Commonwealth Bank came under plenty of fire in November 2010 when it lifted its standard mortgage rate by a wider margin than the Reserve Bank of Australia's rate increase. In the last year it’s lost about a tenth of its value. The flip side of that is that the stock pays a very healthy dividend of 8.2 percent.
However, concerns remain about Australia’s 20-year housing rally after housing loans approved by banks fell to a 10-year low in February.
Market Cap: $94.5 Billion
The world’s largest coal company by market capital recently raised its coal sales forecast for 2011. Analysts expect spot coal prices in China to rise 15 percent this year, according to Reuters, partly because of Japan’s nuclear crisis.
The company merely maintained its market value over the last year. But analysts continue to worry that rising costs will hurt margins.
Market Cap: $99 Billion
The world's biggest life insurer, China Life, recently said it expects premium income to rise more than 10 percent in 2011. The biggest boost could be gains in its investment yields as interest rates continue to rise in China.
But the company's market value hasn't fared as well, dropping 21 percent over the last year. China Life reported a drop in fourth-quarter net profit after losses on its stock market portfolio.
Market Cap: $108.2 Billion
Australian miner Rio Tinto’s operations have been hit hard by flooding and cyclone disasters in the state of Queensland. Rio reported a drop in both coal and iron-ore output in the first quarter, but the company has seen a small increase in its market value over the past 12 months.
The miner has been trying to appease shareholders who want more cash returned to them. In February, it doubled its dividend and boosted its share buyback program. The company also won control of Africa-focused, coal miner Riversdale after a tough battle. Rio has been trying to develop large, low-cost assets to meet China and India’s hunger for commodities.
Market Cap: $112.7 Billion
Rising oil prices have helped oil major China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. (or Sinopec) boost its market value by nearly 24 percent over the last year. But higher oil prices are also a double-edged sword. The Chinese government’s fuel price increases have lagged global oil prices, hurting Sinopec’s marketing and refining margins.
The company has been able to offset that with higher prices in its chemicals businesses. Majority owned by the government, the company’s shares are listed in New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Market Cap: $113.8 Billion
CNOOC is China’s top offshore oil producer and just one of three Chinese oil and gas companies among Asia’s top 20 most valuable firms. The company recently posted a 72 percent rise in fourth-quarter earnings, boosted by soaring crude oil prices. It's also China’s biggest LNG terminal developer.
The company’s market value has surged more than 40 percent over the past year, overtaking Sinopec in terms of market cap. Founded in 1982 by the State to explore oil offshore, CNOOC has been increasing its global footprint by buying stakes in the Eagle Ford shale gas project in the US and assets in Argentina.
Market Cap: $134.8 Billion
South Korea’s most valuable company, Samsung, saw its market value rise through the year and the shares hit a record high in January. They have fallen since, amid worries about rising competition for the company’s smartphones from a cheaper iPhone and for its tablets from the iPad 2.
Founded in 1969 in Daegu, South Korea, Samsung has come a long way. In 2010, the world’s largest flash memory maker pulled in $150 billion in sales. But it still remains a family affair. The company promoted Chairman and Founder Lee Kun-hee’s son, Jay Y. Lee to President of the company in December last year.
Market Cap: $135.5 Billion
After major quality stumbles in 2010, Toyota’s shares had been recovering somewhat, but took a hit again when the March 11 earthquake struck. Shares of Japan’s largest company have lost 11 percent of their value over the last year and now trade at close to its liquidation value.
The earthquake halted production at all but two of Toyota’s Japan plants. The company is cutting production at its North American factories, shutting down plants in Europe for a few days, and expects output to drop in May.
Market Cap: $148.3 Billion
The smallest of China’s big four state-owned banks, Agbank is already the seventh largest company by market value in Asia. Its mammoth IPO in 2010 pulled in $22.1 billion from Hong Kong and Shanghai, making it the biggest IPO in history, topping ICBC’s listing in 2006.
Just four years ago, the bank was technically insolvent, but China’s big push to develop the interiors is expected to boost Agbank, the country’s largest rural lender. The company reported an 83 percent rise in net profits in the fourth quarter. The bank’s Chairman told the Financial Times that 96 percent of the branches at the county level or below are now making money.
Market Cap: $150 Billion
Despite China’s central bank raising rates and tightening liquidity, the country’s banks keep reporting booming profits. Bank of China, the nation’s fourth-largest lender by assets and third-largest by market cap, beat expectations in the fourth quarter when it reported a 33 percent rise in net profit.
BOC is China’s largest foreign exchange bank and could benefit from the internationalization of the Remnimbi. Like China’s other lenders, BOC is planning to concentrate on increasing margins rather than loan volumes in 2011.
Market Cap: $170.2 Billion
Rising commodity prices have helped BHP increase its market cap by 11 percent over the last year. The company has bought back $7.8 billion worth of shares in Australia and Britain since Novermber 2010 in an attempt to placate shareholders upset at its big cash balance.
Just like Rio, BHP has been hit by flooding in Australia’s Queensland region. Floods and cyclones cost the state up to 30 million tones in coal output between November 2010 and February 2011.
Market Cap: $189.7 Billion
When you have 600 million users, growth is bound to be a problem and that has been the case with China Mobile over the past year. The firm reported a three percent rise in fourth quarter net profit for the world's largest mobile operator.
The good news for shareholders may be an increase in the company’s dividend. Led by chairman and CEO Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile has $48 billion in cash and equivalents with two-thirds of that sitting in bank deposits.
Market Cap: $238.3 Billion
China’s massive loan expansion to fight the financial crisis helped the country’s second-largest bank post a 26 percent increase in profits for the fiscal year that just ended on March 31, 2011. In turn, the company’s market value has increased by nearly 15 percent over the last year.
Despite four interest rate hikes from the People’s Bank of China since October 2010, analysts expect the bank to continue to post record profits.
Market Cap: $259.2 Billion
After reporting a record profit of $25 billion last year, the largest of China’s big-four State-owned banks expects credit growth to slow this year. Worries about tighter monetary policy in China have kept investors on the sidelines despite strong earnings. The company’s Hong Kong listed shares have risen only 9 percent over the last year.
ICBC is not only the world’s most profitable lender, but also the largest by market cap. It serves 216 million individual customers through its 16,200 outlets.
Market Cap: $329.6 Billion
Rising global oil prices have helped China’s largest oil company increase its market value by a third over the last year.
Founded in 1999, PetroChina is the listed arm of State-owned China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), which still owns 86 percent of the unit. It’s also China’s largest company by sales, with revenues of $222 billion in 2010.
Like Sinopec, PetroChina’s shares are traded on the Hong Kong, New York and Shanghai stock exchanges. The company’s activities span drilling and exploration, refining and fuel retailing. PetroChina owns nearly all of its 18,000 branded service stations.