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Who’s No. 1 in energy? Depends who you ask

By Gary Lamphier, Edmonton Journal

November 17, 2009 8:31 AM

Platts has released its annual survey of the world’s 250 largest public energy companies, and a familiar name tops the list: ExxonMobil Corp.

For the fifth straight year, the Houston-based oil and gas giant outranks such rivals as Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total.

The latter four firms, respectively, round out this year’s top five global players. All are huge integrated producers with sizable downstream– refining and distribution–operations.

EnCana, ranked 16th, is the top Canadian name on the list, followed by Imperial Oil (31st), Husky Energy (35th), Petro-Canada (37th), Canadian Natural Resources (42nd), and Suncor (48th).

EnCana won’t remain Canada’s top dog for long. It plans to split into two companies later this month.

Meanwhile, Suncor’s recent takeover of Petro-Canada, which already makes it Canada’s largest energy producer, won’t be reflected as such in Platts’ rankings until it releases its 2010 survey.

Platts, a division of New York-based McGraw-Hill Cos., and a leading source of global energy and commodities info, bases its rankings on a combination of assets, revenues, profits and return on capital for the latest fiscal year.

Besides oil and gas producers and refiners, the rankings include utilities, pipeline companies and energy services firms. To qualify for inclusion, companies must be publicly traded and boast assets of at least $2 billion.

Besides the names above, four other Alberta companies cracked the top 100 rankings, including Talisman Energy (53rd), Nexen(80th), Enbridge(82nd), and TransCanada (90th).

Cameco, the giant Saskatchewanbased uranium producer, ranks 200th, and two Calgary-based power producers — Atco and TransAlta –hold down the 248th and 250th spots on the list.

Of course, Platts isn’t the only publication that ranks the world’s energy giants.

U.S. magazines like Forbes and Fortune publish their own lists each year, along with the Financial Times of London and the Economist.

Each organization uses a slightly different set of financial metrics to come up with its own rankings. Royal Dutch Shell tops Fortune’s list for 2009, followed by ExxonMobil. Forbes comes up with the same top two in its rankings.

The Financial Times, which bases its list solely on market capitalization, ranks ExxonMobil number one, followed by PetroChina. Royal Dutch Shell is a distant third.

At the Economist, PetroChina is on top, followed by ExxonMobil. Again, Royal Dutch Shell lags well behind.

Of course, a publicly traded company’s market value changes every day, so that can make annual rankings look dated pretty quickly.

For what it’s worth, based on Monday’s closing prices on the New York Stock Exchange, PetroChina currently tops ExxonMobil as the world’s most valuable energy company, with a market cap of $354.5 billion US. ExxonMobil is a hair behind, at $353.3 billion.

One final point. If measured by reserves or production, the world’s two largest petroleum companies don’t even show up on any of the lists mentioned above.

That’s because the huge, state-owned oil companies of Saudi Arabia and Iran aren’t publicly traded. Ditto for the national oil companies of Venezuela, Mexico and Kuwait, among others.

The bottom line:When it comes to measuring the world’s biggest energy giants, it seems, there is no single authoritative list.

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