updated 02:00 am EDT, Wed July 2, 2014
Replaces Berkshire Hathaway at top spot, reclaims last year's crown
Apple has returned to the top ranking position on Barron's annual ranking of the world's most-respected companies, not only surpassing last year's top-rated company Berkshire Hathaway, but greatly surpassing any other entrants' score. The company had spent the previous five years in the number one position in the survey until last year, when it sank to third place following a precipitous drop in its stock, which saw the company lose half of its value until the spring of 2013.
Since then, "the stock has since gained more than 60 percent, to a split-adjusted $90," the publication said, noting that the iPhone maker's comeback from third place last year "tracks a similar revival in the company's shares." Berkshire Hathaway slipped this year to second place. The magazine gave credit for the turnaround to Apple's investor-friendly moves, such as an increased dividend, a 7-to-1 stock split and an enhanced program of stock buybacks. The survey was the result of scoring by by a cross-section of US money managers
With Apple at the lead and Berkshire in second, the remainder of the top five was a mix of traditional strong-performing companies and technology firms. Aircraft maker Boeing grabbed third place, leaping up from 26th place last year on the strength of its cash flow and management in the face of production problems. Google stayed where it was last year at the number four position, while home goods kingpin Johnson & Johnson went from 13th place last year to round out the top five.
The 100 companies in the list are chosen based on stock market valuations, and surveyed the top 101 money managers in the use on the level of respect they had for each company. Credit-card companies appear to have emerged relatively unscathed by the financial crisis of 2008-2009, but not banks -- most of which, with the exception of 26th-ranked Wells Fargo, were grouped near the bottom of the list. Investor gurus also seem to be taking a dim view of companies fighting the public sentiment over low and "stolen" wages, with McDonald's and Walmart both plummeting from the top quarter of the list to near the bottom quarter.
Apple's score in the survey was 3.94 out of a possible four, with Berkshire relatively far behind at 3.58. It also received the highest number of "Highly Respect" votes and the fewest "Don't Respect" votes. Concerns that the company could flounder in the face of stronger competition and the loss of co-founder Steve Jobs appear to have dissipated, with money mangers now convinced that Cook is the best choice to lead the enormous and rapidly-growing corporation that Apple has become, following its success under Jobs.
"There was no one like Steve Jobs," said Managing Director at Liberty Capital Management Ina Fernandez, but Cook has "done well" and the company's new strengths now better suit his operational skills. Some of the admiration for Apple stems from the company's devices rather than just its incredibly strong profit margins. "I love the products," said Weybosset Research & Management Principle Fla Lewis. "I have an iPad that has revolutionized my life."