NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Wal-Mart Stores topped Fortune magazine's list of most admired companies for a second year in a row while International Business Machines made the list after a 17-year absence.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B: Research, Estimates) grabbed the No. 2 spot as Southwest Airlines (LUV: Research, Estimates) flew in at No. 3.
Rounding out the top 10 are General Electric (GE: Research, Estimates) (No. 4); Dell Inc. (DELL: Research, Estimates) (No. 5); Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) (No. 6); Johnson & Johnson (JNJ: Research, Estimates) (No. 7); Starbucks (SBUX: Research, Estimates) (No. 8); FedEx (FDX: Research, Estimates) (No. 9); and IBM (IBM: Research, Estimates) (No. 10).
Fortune said it used eight areas of criteria to determine the most admired, including long-term investment value, quality of services, products and management.
"If last year set a low-water mark for corporate admiration, the results of our latest survey of thousands of businesspeople may signal a rebound," Fortune added. "Companies' median scores rose 5 percent over the previous year."
The magazine said Wal-Mart's competitive pricing strategy puts the heat on suppliers and competitors to offer better prices, which saves consumers $20 billion a year.
But the magazine said Wal-Mart (WMT: Research, Estimates) still has many headaches despite being the most admired company. Dozens of cases claiming gender discrimination and wage violations have stained its image.
The company is also the target of a federal grand jury probe into whether it knowingly employed illegal workers as cleaning contractors.
IBM rejoined Fortune's top 10 most admired as No.10 after a 17-year absence.
"Stock performance isn't the only reason," according to Fortune. "CEO Sam Palmisano credits his predecessor Lou Gerstner, who led the company's turnaround, as well as Big Blue's refusal to 'hunker down' during the recession."
Fortune said IBM (IBM: Research, Estimates) knocked Procter & Gamble (PG: Research, Estimates) off the top 10 list, thereby boosting the number of technology companies in the top 10 to three. Procter & Gamble was No.10 in the 2003 survey.
Xerox (XRX: Research, Estimates) zoomed from the No. 9 spot to No. 3 in the individual rankings for computer companies and McDonald's was super-sized to No. 2 from No. 7 in the food services sector.
But not all firms received a boost. Accounting problems and federal investigations led to lower rankings for Freddie Mac (FRE: Research, Estimates) and Tenet Healthcare (THC: Research, Estimates). And Oracle (ORCL: Research, Estimates) slipped to No. 7 in the computer software category because of its hostile takeover attempts for smaller rival PeopleSoft (PSFT: Research, Estimates).
Fortune's "America's Most Admired Companies" issue hits the newsstands March 1 and is available online at www.fortune.com.