Revealed: the world's most valuable firm

Apple logoApple has become the world's most valuable company, ever.

Its surging share price propelled its value to 621 billion dollars (£395 billion), beating the record for market capitalisation set by Microsoft in the heady days of the internet boom.
Apple's shares have hit new highs recently because of optimism around what is believed to be the impending launch of the iPhone 5, and possibly a smaller, cheaper iPad.

Apple has been the world's most valuable company since the end of last year. It is now worth 53% more than No. 2 Exxon Mobil.

The comparison to Microsoft does not take inflation into account. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the software giant was worth about 850 billion dollars on December 30, 1999 (£541 billion). Microsoft is now worth 257 billion dollars (£163 billion).

Apart from the iPhone and "mini iPad," analysts are speculating that Apple plans to make a TV set to complete its suite of consumer electronics products.

China's largest oil company, PetroChina, was briefly worth 1 trillion dollars after it listed on the Shanghai stock exchange in 2007, but only based on its price on that exchange. Its shares also trade in Hong Kong and on the New York Stock Exchange. Based on trading there, its market capitalisation never went as high as 500 billion dollars.

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