FORTUNE 500 2006  
FORTUNE 500    
FORTUNE 500: The most profitable
Oil producers were money machines last year, but blue-chip companies outside the energy patch were big earners too.
By Grace Wong, staff writer

NEW YORK ( - Corporate profits among the FORTUNE 500 roared in 2005, led by $36.1 billion that flowed into Exxon Mobil's coffers -- the biggest annual profit on record for a U.S. company.

That means the nation's biggest oil company was earning nearly $99 million a day, or about $1,140 a second.

FORTUNE 500 2006
Related stories:

Exxon (Research), whose profit surged 42.6 percent, widened its lead in the race for the biggest bottom line among the FORTUNE 500.

The company's profit topped Citigroup's (Research), the FORTUNE 500 company with the second-highest profits, by nearly $12 billion -- or almost 50 percent -- even as the nation's biggest bank's earnings jumped 44.3 percent. The FORTUNE 500 list is an annual ranking of America's largest corporations by revenues.

Oil companies formed a profit dream team. Chevron (Research) nabbed the No. 5 spot on the list of 50 most profitable FORTUNE 500 companies, and a 66 percent profit gain catapulted ConocoPhillips to No. 6.

While last year's spike in oil led to a windfall for oil companies, blue chips outside the oil patch turned in strong profits as well.

Dow components General Electric (Research) (ranked No. 4 by profits) and American International Group (No. 9) slipped a few spots on the most profitable list but managed to stay in the top 10.

Wal-Mart (Research) hung in at No. 8 ranked by profits as the world's largest retailer grappled with rising energy and health-care costs. Altria Group, home of the Marlboro Man, fell one spot to No. 10, and Johnson & Johnson (No. 11) slipped a notch despite healthy earnings growth of 22 percent.

In addition to oil, techs had a bumper profit year in 2005.

Microsoft (Research) rose to No. 7 from No. 12 on the profits list, thanks to the strength of its ubiquitous Windows operating system, while chipmaker Intel (No. 12) moved up as it notched record sales in 2005.

J.P. Morgan Chase climbed 15 places to No. 14, buoyed by strong trading revenue and its highest investment banking fees since 2000.

MetLife was another big advancer, jumping from No. 50 to No. 29, as earnings soared 70.9 percent.

Moving in the other direction was Merck, which faces up to $50 billion in liability over its withdrawn painkiller, Vioxx, according to one industry analyst.

The nation's No. 2 drugmaker spent nearly $300 million last year defending itself in Vioxx-related lawsuits and faces thousands more cases. Merck, like other drugmakers, is also set to lose patent protection on several key drugs in the next few years.

Full list: 50 most profitable FORTUNE 500 companies Top of page

Next: See the 2006 FORTUNE 500

FORTUNE 1000 Companies in Your State

Follow the news that matters to you. Create your own alert to be notified on topics you're interested in.

Or, visit Popular Alerts for suggestions.
Manage alerts | What is this?