Wal-Mart Atop Fortune 500

For the second year in a row, Wal-Mart is #1 on the Fortune 500 (GM, ExxonMobil, Ford and GE round out the top 5).

None of that was particularly surprising to me, but I wasn’t aware of the lead that Wal-Mart held over the runners-up. Fortune offers these hypothetical cases that could occur to oust Wal-Mart from the top spot.

By this time next year, it plans to be another $26 billion higher, bringing its revenues to $272 billion. Assuming it hits that goal, is there any scenario in which Wal-Mart is not No. 1 next year? Improbable but not impossible is that oil prices rise—yet not so far that SUV drivers stop filling up—pushing Exxon Mobil into the lead for a year. Barring that scenario, here’s the best we could do:

  • All the defense companies on the list (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and four others) merge to form Military Industrial Complex Inc. Total revenues: $162 billion. Not even close.
  • Antitrust regulators bless the creation of ExxonMobilChevronTexaco: $182 billion + $92 billion = $274 billion. The winner by a nose.
  • General Motors and Ford join hands: $187 billion + $163 billion = $350 billion. A new No. 1! Unless ...
  • Average coffee consumption spikes from 1.6 cups per day to 284 cups. Starbucks leaps straight to the top.

Wow, capitalism at work.

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