Who's #1?

Only two weeks after we examined a list of the world's largest companies (and compared it to a list from 1999 and 1989), it's out of date:

Chinese oil firm PetroChina has trumped US rival Exxon Mobil to become the world's biggest firm by market value on its first day of trading in Shanghai.

PetroChina saw its shares nearly triple in early trade from 16.7 yuan to end at 43.96 yuan, giving PetroChina a market value of about $1 trillion.

This is almost the twice the $488bn value of oil producer Exxon Mobil.

And that's not the only list that's changed:

The Chinese stock market soared past the UK as the world's third largest by value after PetroChina's $9bn Shanghai listing. The market has gained 110% already this year.

But back to that world's-biggest-companies listing.  It's significant in light of what I wrote just two weeks ago:

In 1989, the list was dominated by 14 Japanese companies.  And those 14 accounted for nearly 3/4 of the value of the top 20.

In 1999, the list was dominated by 14 U.S. companies.  And those 14 accounted for 3/4 of the value of the top 20.

And today?

Well, China's number one… but it's not nearly as dominant as Japan in '89 or the U.S. in '99.

Eight of the 20 biggest companies are Chinese, and they account for 41% of the value of the top 20.  And while the biggest company in '89 was Japanese (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone) and in '99 was American (Microsoft)… the biggest company today is still American (ExxonMobil).

No more.  Granted, PetroChina might be way overvalued at this stage (let's not forget Warren Buffett recently dumped all of his shares), but the direction of the trend is unmistakable.

My colleague Christopher Hancock knows that part of the world very well.  It's where he scouts out some of the very best investing opportunities for readers of Free Market Investor — although he doesn't limit himself to just Asia.  <look here for one international stock he's especially keen on.