10 fast-growing global giants to watch

China, India, Mexico and Brazil are home to some of the fastest-growing global companies that could soon topple old industry leaders.

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By Parija B. Kavilanz, CNNMoney.com senior writer

India, China, Russia, Brazil and Mexico today have some of the fastest-growing companies in the world, according to Boston Consulting Group's 2008 "Global Challengers" report.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Johnson Electric, Grupo Bimbo and Larsen & Turbo probably don't ring a bell in the United States, but American corporations better pay close attention to these fast-growing global rivals.

According to the Boston Consulting Group's (BCG) "2008 Global Challengers" report released Monday, these three firms belong to an elite club of 100 of the most formidable international companies that could "reshape global industries."

The group of 100 together already have a combined annual revenue of $1.2 trillion and are growing at an average rate of more than 20 percent a year.

"Industry leaders need to understand these new rivals and act quickly," David Michael, the report's co-author, said in a statement. "For those who move fast, the challengers could become key clients, suppliers, and even strategic partners. For those who don't, the challengers will represent fierce competition and, in time, become potential acquirers."

BCG studied more than 3,000 companies from 14 developing countries to pick the the top global contenders.

Hal Sirkin, senior vice president with Boston Consulting Group and co-author of the report, said analysts primarily focused on corporations with annual sales of at least $1 billion, with 10 percent of their revenue coming from outside their home countries.

Based on the report, CNNMoney.com asked Sirkin to pick a corporate leader and a rising star from each country.

China: Johnson Electric. The Hong Kong-based company is the world's biggest maker of small motors used in autos, home appliances, power tools and business equipment.

With plants in China, western Europe, Latin American and the United States, the company posted $2 billion in sales in 2006, with 60 percent of that coming from outside of its Asian markets.

"This is a great story with phenomenal growth. The name is probably to make it feel more Western," Sirkin said. "Johnson Electric has moved most of its production to mainland China and it has become very efficient in managing production costs."

Although Good Baby Industrial isn't yet on the top 100 list, Sirkin said he felt compelled to pick it as an up-and-coming global star that's on its way to joining the global contenders club.

"Good baby is one of the top three global producers of baby strollers, clothes and bicycles. It was founded by a guy who ran a school in China. He's somewhat of a creative genius and he's invented popular new stroller designs," Sirkin said.

The company logged sales of about $338 million in 2006, with two-thirds of its revenue coming from its international business.

India: Tata Group. The Mumbai-based conglomerate operates more than 90 companies across industries including chemicals, automotive, communications and information technology (IT), consumer products and steel. In 2007, Tata Steel acquired London-based steelmaker Corus Group for more than $12 billion, making it the sixth-largest steel company in the world.

The group last year reported revenue of more than $20 billion. "Tata Group has become a major acquirer in recent years," said Sirkin. "When Tata buys a new asset, the management takes an incredible amount of time in getting to know everybody in the new company and absorbing knowledge instead of rapidly integrating it like many Western companies do,"

Tata Motor (Charts) ADRs, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, have fallen about 12 percent year-to-date.

Sirkin also likes Larsen & Toubro, a construction and IT services firm that pulled in $4.6 billion in revenue in 2006. "Larsen & Toubro build infrastructure which is in short supply in India relative to demand. It's a very good engineering company with low-cost production," he said.

Sirkin said the company was expanding its construction business overseas, primarily in the Middle East. Its global operations currently account for 25 percent of sales.

Mexico: Cemex is one of the world's biggest cement producers, with sales of $18 billion in more than 40 countries, including the United States, Venezuela, Columbia and parts of Asia. Two-thirds of its business comes from outside of Mexico.

"This began as a small family-owned Mexican cement producer. It's still family-owned and it's grown by becoming a major acquirer by buying companies in the Philippines, South America, the U.S. and Europe," Sirkin said.

Cemex (Charts) ADRs, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, are down 17 percent this year.

Grupo Bimbo is a Mexican bakery company with annual sales of $5.9 billion, 30 percent of which come from overseas. Grupo Bimbo owns 5,000 food products under 100 brand names.

"It's a very well-known brand in Mexico with a significant export business that growing fast," Sirkin said.

Brazil: Steel producer Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), with more than $19.7 billion in sales, earned a spot on the top 100 list.

In the United States, CVRD (Charts), the world's largest iron ore producer, has seen its shares jump 131 percent this year. In 2006, CVRD bought Canadian nickel company Canico Resource for $800 million to build its international position," Sirkin said.

"CVRD is in a great position because commodities are hot right now. This a major global mining company and now it's working hard to become a real global player," he said.

Sirkin's other pick is energy company Petrobras, with sales of $72 billion. "Petrobras is one of the world's largest ethanol producers," Sirkin said. "In Brazil, ethanol is made from cheap sugar cane instead of corn. Cars in Brazil run on ethanol, which is an environmentally friendly, renewable resource."

"Brazil used to be energy-dependent. Now its a large exporter of ethanol," Sirkin said.

Russia: Natural gas company Gazprom is a major exporter to Europe and parts of Asia. The company logged $80 billion in 2006.

"Gazprom is building its pipeline and expanding its output. Half of its revenue comes from its international sales," Sirkin said.

Lastly, Sirkin highlighted Severstal, a Russian steel producer with $11.7 billion in revenue.

Sirkin said Severstal's purchase four years ago of the Rouge steel plant, which was Ford (Charts, Fortune 500)'s largest steel supplier, gave it a significant inroad in the U.S. market and helped it to secure a bigger foothold overseas.  To top of page

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