The University of St. Gallen in Switzerland recently compiled a list of the 500 largest family businesses around the world. There are some surprising companies in the list. Household names and some you might have never heard of.
The United States is the clear winner based on total number (101) and combined revenue (US$2 trillion) however, when expressed on a national per capita basis Switzerland is the clear winner on both measures.
Switzerland has 17 companies in the list of the top 500 family firms, generating over US$ 181 billion of combined revenue, close to the GDP of New Zealand (US$ 198 billion – IMF 2014). Together these businesses generate revenue of nearly US$23,000 per resident of Switzerland while employing nearly half a million people globally.
Family businesses are an important part of the western European economy, which is home to almost half of the world’s top family firms both in terms of number (48%) and revenue (44%).
The University of St. Gallen measures company size by revenue and family control by whether the family has 32% or more of the shareholder votes. This is not always in proportion to ownership. For example the family that controls the Swiss company Sika has 52% of the voting rights while owning only 16.1% of the company.
Switzerland’s list of top-500 family firms ordered by revenue (US$ billion):
Roche Holding AG (Roche Group) 50.5
Kuehne + Nagel International AG 18.5
Tetra Laval International SA 17.4
Compagnie Financiere Richemont 14.3
Liebherr-International SA 11.8
DKSH Holding AG 10.3
Swatch Group 9.1
Schindler Holding Ltd 8.8
Bauhaus AG 6.3
Sika AG 5.5
Barry Callebaut AG 5.2
Hilti Aktiengesellschaft 5.0
AMAG Automobil- und Motoren AG 4.6
SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH GmbH & Co. KG 4.4
Omya AG 4.0
Bucher Industries AG 2.9
Buhler group 2.6
Globally, family businesses span most industries but are particularly well represented in retail and wholesaling, automotive and asset management. The top three spots go to Wal-Mart (retailing), Volkswagen AG (automotive) and Berkshire Hathaway (asset management). These three have combined annual revenues of US$ 920 billion. Switzerland’s largest family firm Roche comes in at number at number 20 with US$ 50.5 billion of annual revenue.