Continued: Year end numbers | Taking Stock

By Tim Raetzloff | Jan 29, 2014

I wrote a year-end report, which ran Jan. 8 in The Beacon, that noted the Puget Sound region is home to two of the most valuable companies in the world, Microsoft and Amazon.com.

The hours (days, actually) of research in the SEC's Edgar database to make up that report reminded me of a few things that I had allowed to slip from my memory. Because of those things remembered, I will be a little more of a blatant, unashamed advocate for the region.

The top four companies in this area, as measured by market capitalization, are Microsoft, Amazon.com, Starbucks and Costco.

Market capitalization is measured by multiplying the value of one share of stock by the total number of shares outstanding.

Microsoft is worth more than $300 billion, Amazon.com almost $200 billion, and Starbucks and Costco worth more than $50 billion each. That’s a total of more than $600 billion for those four companies combined.

According to Yahoo, those four companies employ more than 470,000 people.

Obviously, a company that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars is big, but compared to what?

Microsoft at more than $300 billion is in the top 10 in the world, according to Forbes Magazine.

Let’s also compare to what used to be big here.

Because I still have a copy of the April 25, 1983 Seattle Business Journal, which had the definitive year-end 1982 report of all 60 shareholder-owned companies then in Washington, I often compare to Dec. 31, 1982.

On that date, none of what are now the four biggest companies in Washington were on the Journal list. Amazon didn't exist and the others were tiny companies.

The biggest company in Washington was, of course, Boeing. Boeing had a market capitalization of about $3.7 billion. The second biggest was Weyerhaeuser, with a market capitalization of about $2.5 billion.

The reason I am not being precise is because SEC records online only go back to 1994, and I used Yahoo to get earlier stock splits and the share price on Dec. 31, 1982.

But the numbers are close, and it is evident that the combined value of all companies in Washington didn't exceed $10 billion.

Today, the top 4 are worth more than $600 billion, and the state has a combined value of more than $750 billion.

Using the rule of 72, and counting back 31 years, we get a growth rate of more than 14 percent annualized. That is a darn good number.

The growth rate for Washington is even more remarkable when you consider that the current number doesn't include the companies that were No. 1 and No. 3 in 1982.

In addition to Boeing, Burlington Northern, the third most valuable company in Washington in 1982, moved its headquarters to Fort Worth in the mid-‘80s.

Which brings me back to blatant advocacy for Washington.

The growth rate of business in Washington has been well above the national average and seems to be continuing.

Companies have also been moving into Washington, but that is a story for another day.

Tim Raetzloff, who operates Abarim Business Computers at Harbor Square in Edmonds, evaluates Puget Sound business activity in his regular column in the Beacon. In the interests of full disclosure he says, “Neither I nor Abarim have any interest in or conflict with any company mentioned in this column.”

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