David Kuo New York

Shares in Apple climbed above $660 (R5 539) last week, propelling its market value to $624 billion, beating the US record held by Microsoft.

The maker of iPods, iPhones and iPads is now worth more than Switzerland. Since 2002, Apple shares have averaged a 46 percent annual return.

But how have the world’s other 10 biggest companies rewarded investors over the past decade?

PetroChina, which boasts a market value of $239bn, is China’s biggest oil and gas producer and the world’s fourth-biggest company. Together with Sinopec, the two companies virtually control the wholesale and retail oil business in China. Over the past 10 years PetroChina has delivered a total return of 602 percent. An investment of $1 000 in the company in 2002 would be worth more than $7 000 today.

Three other oil companies are among the world’s 10 largest companies: ExxonMobil, the second-largest; Royal Dutch Shell, at number five; and Chevron at number nine. Although ExxonMobil is about 35 percent smaller than Apple, it still boasts a market value of $406bn, twice the size of Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron. Over the past 10 years ExxonMobil and Chevron have rewarded investors handsomely, with annual compound returns of 10.2 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Microsoft is the second-biggest hi-tech company with a market value of $258bn, but it has been a disappointing investment over the past 10 years with returns barely breaking even with dividends included.

China Mobile, on the other hand, has been a solid performer. Its 190 percent total return can be attributed to its near domination of the Chinese cellular market.

The world’s 10 largest companies have collectively delivered an average return of 650 percent over the past 10 years. However, when Apple’s returns are stripped out, the performance is more mundane. The top 10’s total return is a more modest 113 percent over 10 years or just 8 percent a year. – The Independent on Sunday