1800 BILLIONAIRES – COULD THEY TAKE OVER THE WORLD?
Like most children, my imagination ran wild with plans to take over the world just like the villains in the cartoons and television shows I grew up watching. As I’ve gotten older, the idea of world domination has taken on a different meaning but in a moment of inspiration, I had the thought to look into just what it would take to truly take over the world from a business perspective.
Not in a take over the government way, but in a pure business way. By controlling all the resources we need to live.
The first step in determining how one would go about taking over the world was to formulate some quantitative parameters. What does it mean to take over the world?
Well, one angle we could take would be to find out how much money it would take to control the biggest companies and/or sectors in the world holding the most influence over our day-to-day lives. This was the angle I came up with, control the things that you need to live and you’re on the way to controlling the world.
When you think about the industries that have the most influence and that you would need to oversee in order to control the world, which come to mind? For me, the industries were Telecom, Media, Internet, Food & Beverage, Defense, Natural Resources (Aluminum, Mining, Iron & Steel, Natural Gas, Oil), and Transportation.
***This was just an exercise, we used public companies and market cap since it was easy to find and this is just a thought provoking piece. There are so many different ways to calculate value through multiple valuation equations. We wanted to keep it simple and in the ball park. We also went with the concept of controlling 51% of a company so we could really stretch the buying power out. Yes we know about boards, voting shares and all that jazz. Please remember this is just a creative, fun, thought-provoking article — not a mergers and acquisitions course in an MBA program.***
The Transportation and Logistics Industry
Logistics providers like UPS and FedEx, and airlines such as Delta and American are likely the most recognizable brands in the space. However, there are lesser known companies such as Deutsche Post and the Canadian National Railway that hold a significant share of the total market capitalization for the sector too. As a truly globally diversified sector, establishing a hold on transportation and logistics would be vital in a world domination strategy. Controlling the movement of people and goods across the globe would give you the power to both create and destroy regional economies.
With a market cap of $93.29B, UPS is the largest player in the field. In fact, with sales of $58.1B, UPS is among the most profitable company in the transportation and logistics sector, generating $4.8B in net profit. Modest in market cap by comparison, United Continental Holdings’ market share is $40.9B, bringing in sales $37.5B in sales, and topping the profitability rankings with $7.1B in net profit.
As an industry, the total market cap for the transportation and logistics industry tops $1.022T, requiring $521.27B in capital to buy up 51% of the sector. When you compare this staggering sum to some of the industries we’ll explore in later segments, you’ll quickly realize how important it would be to control the transportation and logistics industry.
Mining, Aluminum, Iron and Steel, Natural Gas, and Oil
Raw materials and natural gas are an important industry for the global economy as they provide the basis for the majority of the manufacturing sector. Without raw materials and natural gas, very little by way of infrastructure or transportation would get produced, hindering economic development in many ways.
Companies that specialize in aluminum generate a market cap of $50.6B, with some of the world’s largest corporations based out of the Americas, Russia, and China. American behemoth Alcoa leads the sector with a market cap of $13.7B, followed by the Aluminum Corporation of China with a market cap of $8.9B. Surprisingly though, the most profitable company in the sector is Taiwan-based Catcher Technology, which generates $0.79B in net profit on $2.6B in sales.
All in, it would require $25.8B in capital to control 51% of the Aluminum industry.
Mining is a unique industry with a footprint in nearly every region across the globe. That said, the Asia Pacific region dominates this industry, with the largest company being Australia-based BHP Billiton with a market cap of $80.3B on sales of $30.84B. The most profitable company in the mining sector is China-based China Shenhua Energy with a market cap of $43.1B and net profits of $2.59B. British-Australian company Rio Tinto has established the second largest market cap in the mining sector with $62.8B on sales of $34.84B.
As an industry, mining has total market cap of $493.7B. That means that to take controlling share of the sector, we would need to come up with $251.8B.
Iron and Steel
The iron and steel industry has a long and storied history globally, with the foundations of the modern definition of the sector beginning in the 1850s after Henry Bessemer’s invention of the Bessemer converter in 1857. Prior to his invention, which was the first inexpensive industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron before the development of the open hearth furnace, steel was extremely expensive to produce and subsequently was only use for small household items like knives and forks, and weaponry like swords and armor.
Of course, the industry has changed significantly since the late 19th century. Today, Asian companies dominate the industry, with China-based Citic Pacific holding a market cap of $45.4B and Japanese behemoth Nippon Steel possessing a market cap of $21.8B.
The significance of the iron and steel industries cannot be understated. Much of the world’s infrastructure with built on the utilization of steel, and with a total market cap of $299.4B, we would need to drum up $152.7B to take controlling share of 51% of the sector.
Fossil fuel in the form of natural gas is typically gathered from underground formations, and in a residential setting is used primarily for cooking, heating, and electricity generation.
American natural gas utilities holding company Sempra Energy is the largest player in the natural gas space, with a market cap of $25.2B, with Hong Kong and China-based Towngas coming in second with market cap of $21.8B.
Spain and Latin America’s largest natural gas and electricity firm, Gas Natural Fenosa, is the third largest company in the natural gas sector with a market cap of $20.6B. It is also the most profitable company in the sector with net profits of $1.7B.
Leveraging 2015 world consumption rate, the total estimated remaining economically recoverable reserves of natural gas would last 250 years at current consumption rates. Which means the natural gas industry is one that is likely to change in the coming years. That said, the current market cap for the sector is $160.5B, requiring $81.9B in cash to take controlling share.
First discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859, oil has been a primary of economic conditions for the last two centuries. In fact, for much of the 19th and 20th century, the United States was the world’s largest producer of oil in the world. Today, the US is the third largest producer of crude oil, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The most profitable company in the oil space is Exxon Mobil, generating $16.2B in net profit on $236.8B in sales. Exxon Mobil also has the largest market cap at $363B. Anglo-Dutch Multinational Royal Dutch Shell is the second largest player in the sector, with a market cap of $210B.
PetroChina, Chevron, and Total round out the top 5 companies in the oil space, with all three in the triple-digit market cap range at $203.8B, $192.3B, and $121.9B, respectively.
A mammoth industry with a total market cap of nearly $2.7T, grabbing 51% share of the sector would require $1.374T in capital.
The Defense Industry
No world takeover strategy would be complete without taking ownership of the defense industry globally. Prominent companies in this space include Boeing, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.
The Boeing Company is the largest American company in the sector with a market cap of $84.41B, followed closely behind by United Technologies at $82.17B. Lockheed Martin comes in third with a $69.67B market cap.
Globally, the defense industry market value is $682.2B meaning to take 51% of the sector would require a capital investment of $347.9B.
The Food Beverage Industry
Arguably the most important industry to control in the concoction of a global domination strategy, to regulate global food and beverage consumption would mean tapping into one of the essentials for life.
The most significant player in the food and beverage space globally is Swiss behemoth Nestle, with a market cap of $227.65B (more than the amount of money needed to take controlling share of the Aluminum, Iron and Steel industries combined!). American beverage giant Anheuser-Busch is second on our list in the food and beverage industry, with a market cap of $213.9B. Coca-Cola, a brand that most people will think of when it comes to massive food and beverage companies, comes in third with a market cap of $181.32B.
Globally, the food and beverage industry is huge! With a market value of $1.6T, we would need to come up with just north of $816B in capital to take a controlling 51% share of the sector.
Telecom and Internet
The global telecommunications and Internet industry is gargantuan, topping more than $2.2T in total market cap. And to control the flow of communication and information across the globe is to control public messaging, a vital aspect to global domination. China-based China Mobile Ltd is the largest provider of telecom and internet services, with a market cap of $223.3B, followed closely by American giant AT&T with a market cap of $226.7B.
AT&T’s largest American competitor Verizon Communications comes in third globally with a market cap of $193.6B. Japanese companies NTT DOCOMO and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation come in fourth and fifth globally with market caps of $89.96B and $88.39B, respectively.
Everything said, to take 51% controlling share of the telecommunications and internet industries purely on a market cap basis would require $1.13T in capital.
A Closer Look at The Telecom & Internet Industries
Control the media and you can control the masses to a point. Since you can determine what content is published, you’re like a state-owned media outlet and can push whatever agenda you want.
One of the unique aspects to dominating the global telecom and internet industries is that 14 companies control the major global infrastructure that supports the entire market. That is why looking exclusively at market value is not the most accurate method to control the industry.
The fourteen companies that own the majority of global network infrastructure capabilities are AT&T, CenturyLink, Cogent Communications, Deutsche Telekom AG, Global Telecom & Technology, KPN International, Level 3 Communications, NTT Communications, Orange, Sprint, Telecom Italia Sparkle, Telefonica Global Solutions, Telia Carrier, and Verizon Enterprise Solutions.
More important that purchasing 51% of the telecom and internet industry would be to take controlling share of these fourteen powerhouse companies, giving us reigns over global communications infrastructure. The total market cap of the highlighted fourteen companies comes to $1.363T, slightly more than 51% of the total market cap for the industry.
When it comes to paid television, one player stands apart from the crowd and completed dominates the industry: Comcast Corp. With a market cap of $149.7B, Comcast Corp’s closest competitor doesn’t even possess half the total market cap.
Charter Communications Inc. comes in second on the list of largest paid television companies globally with a market cap of $70.34B, followed by Netflix Inc. at $53.15B.
With a total market cap of Pay TV globally calculated to be $374.8B, owning Comcast Corp and Charter Communications would be enough to dominate the market. That said, in order to take 51% controlling share of the industry, we would need to come up with $191.15B in capital.
Controlling what people are consuming when it comes to paid television is definitely an area necessary for global domination. However, considering how much time the world spends listening to radio, be it in a car during their commute or for pleasure at home, finding a way to control the radio waves would be paramount in global takeover.
The largest company in the broadcast radio space is Sirius XM Holdings Inc., with a market cap of $20.63B. Liberty SiriusXM Group comes in second on the list with a market cap of $11.24B. The only other company with a market cap greater than $1B is Pandora Media Inc. with a market cap of $2.44B.
As an industry, the total market cap calculates out to be $34.82B, requiring $17.75B in capital to purchase 51% controlling share.
With the rise of paid television to mainstream prominence in the US market, the market for broadcast television in the US has shrunk, with European and Latin American companies taking over and dominating the market.
French mass media company Vivendi SA is the largest player in the global broadcast television space with a market cap of $24.99B. Second and third on the list are Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa SAD and Luxembourg based SES SA with market caps of $14.9B and $12.94B, respectively. The highest ranking American media company is Scripps Network Interactive with a market cap of $8.49B, coming in fourth globally.
Despite the growing popularity of Pay TV, the size of the Broadcast Television market globally is still large and significant. In fact, with a market cap of $123B, it still truly is a powerhouse medium for information communication. At current market value, we would need to come up with $62.73B in capital to buy up controlling share of the industry.
Some of the largest, most well-known companies in the world are diversified media groups, including Walt Disney Co., Time Warner Inc., and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. With a total market cap three times the size of Broadcast Television, the diversified media industry is vital in a global takeover plan. Once again, controlling communications and what the population is reading, viewing, and consuming is paramount. There is no better way to access the population than through the channels these diversified media companies have established over the years.
With a market cap of $152.14B, Walt Disney Co. is the largest player in the diversified media space, followed by Time Warner Inc. which has market cap of $68.3B, less than half the value of Walt Disney Co.
Twenty-First Century Fox, CBS Corp, Viacom Inc., and Discovery Communications Inc., round out the top six companies in the industry with market caps greater than $10T. Twenty-First Century Fox leads this group with a market cap of $50.85B, CBS Corp has a market cap of $25.86B, Viacom Inc. sits at $16.64B, and Discovery Communications Inc. totals out to $10.06B in market cap.
As an industry, diversified media has a total market value of $376.7B, requiring $192.13B in capital to control 51% of the pie.
The final bastion of information consumption is the publishing industry. About a third in size when compared to the diversified media industry, publishing still packs a punch on a global scale. Between educational products, the press, analytics and information, publishing companies produce some of the most important documents in the world.
British companies RELX PLC and RELX NV are the largest players in the publishing space with market caps of $36.29B and $33.65B, respectively. In terms of scale, no other companies really come close to the pair of British companies, however 13 other companies in the publishing sector still generate billion-dollar (some multibillion-dollar) market values.
As a whole, the publishing industry has a market cap of $122B globally, with controlling share of 51% valued at $62.4B.
At the end of the day, taking over the world, whether that’s financially or physically, is no easy feat. Looking at the scale and size of some of the industries we identified through this experiment, we can see that the amount of money needed just to purchase controlling share of one industry is exorbitant.
To control the entire globe, we would need to tap into and govern some of the world’s largest and most powerful industries, including telecom and Internet, raw materials, oil and gas, media, publishing, and food and beverage, just to name a few.
Crunching all the numbers, we would need $5.46T in capital to buy up 51% of the key industries necessary to take over the world.
To put this number in perspective, the combined net worth of the world’s 1,810 richest people comes out to $6.5T. Out of a global population of nearly 7 billion people, that’s really not too bad!
We would even have some change left over to work on taking over healthcare.