Which Company Has the Most Tentacles in Your Life?
Most Valuable Company
Apple is the most valuable company in the world, worth $659 billion as of this writing, and it derives more than half its revenue from smartphones. Though it seems some people can't live without their electronic umbilical cord, it has plenty of competition from Google and its Android system as well as Samsung (SSNLF) and others. It's making a foray into financial services with ApplePay -- but so is Google with Google Wallet. Apple may satisfy your entertainment and tech needs for now, but it doesn't have nearly as many tentacles as Google.
Search for Your Car, Your Utility Provider?
Search giant Google is already experimenting with being your service provider. From there it's not such a farfetched idea to providing your utilities. Fully 64 percent of Americans would consider signing up with a non-utility provider like Comcast (CMCSA), Google or SolarCity (SCTY), according to a recent Shelton Group survey. Google's Nest thermostat gives the company a tiny toehold into the Internet of Things trend. Google may also satisfy your automotive needs down the road with self-driving cars, now with more than 750,000 test miles under their belted radials. You can see one in action at its YouTube channel. By the way, Google also owns YouTube. The company has a well-funded innovation laboratory called Google X.
50 Brands You May Know
For now, staid Berkshire Hathaway may insinuate itself more in every aspect of your life with insurance (including GEICO), real estate, retail (such as Dairy Queen and See's Candies), utility companies, pipeline companies and oil and gas production chemicals. Through its investing arm, it owns stock in virtually every sector of the economy. Berkshire Hathaway even has a hand in your underwear, so to speak, as it owns Fruit of the Loom, one of its more than 50 brands.
Womb to Tomb
Amazon aims to be your grocer, entertainer, gadget provider and retailer of everything -- and soon delivered the same day, by drones. Sales have grown from $15 million in 1996 to net sales of $20.58 billion in its third quarter alone. One of its newer challenges is going against consumer goods giants Procter & Gamble (PG) and Kimberly-Clark (KMB) with Amazon Prime diapers.
For Americans in middle to lower socioeconomic brackets, Walmart -- America's largest private employer -- supplies many of their daily needs, including financial services, groceries, medical services and coffins. The company's 2014 annual report revealed $473 billion in 2013 net sales. Of that, global e-commerce rose 30 percent to $10 billion. Walmart has throughout its 50 years made smaller businesses obsolete, and it pressures suppliers into squeezing margins to keep those everyday low prices.
The 500-Pound Octopus
Century old General Electric has operations in 170 countries in aviation, transportation, medical technology, infrastructure and energy -- or as GE simply categorizes its business divisions: curing, building, moving and powering.
GE is involved in plenty of blue sky thinking, such as robotics and 3-D printing for industrial uses. In the U.S. you may use a GE appliance, but most of the ways the company interacts with you are behind the curtain. Of all these companies, GE is the company most involved in your continued good health, with millions of dollars spent on medical and biotech research.
Its global reach is powerful: in China, the company is helping develop natural gas infrastructure; it won $40 billion in engine business at the Dubai Air Show in two days; and over the last decade has tripled revenues from emerging markets like Algeria and Indonesia. GE Capital is strong in in international finance, and GE expects its portfolio to remain 30 percent weighted to specialty finance.
From Dusk to Dawn, Around the Globe
It's a tough call which company has the strongest grip on your life, but these companies are aiming every day to strengthen that grip and simultaneously their grasp on your wallet.