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Apple becomes world's first $3 trillion company as tech becomes central to post-COVID life

The inventor of the iPhone, iPad, iPod music player and Mac computer nearly went bankrupt two decades ago. Now, it's the world's most highly valued.

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Apple's iPhone 13, its latest, was released in September.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

A little over three years ago, Apple investors pushed the value of its shares above $1 trillion, making it the world's most highly valued tech company. Then, two years later, Apple stock rose so high that the company's value passed $2 trillion. Now, it's risen yet again, topping $3 trillion. As in $3,000,000,000,000.

Around 10:45 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 3, Apple stock hit $182.86 per share, which when multiplied by the 16.4 billion shares outstanding, values Apple at about $3 trillion. That's more than the value of AT&T, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Disney, Exxon, Ford, Goldman Sachs, IBM, McDonald's, Morgan Stanley, Netflix, Nike, and Walmart -- combined. The largely symbolic milestone comes as Apple's struggled to keep up with near-record demand for its devices amid the pandemic.

In October, the tech giant warned investors that it was struggling with supply chain disruptions amid the coronavirus pandemic, which at the time amounted to as much as $6 billion in lost revenue. "We are optimistic about the future, especially as we see strong demand for new products," Apple CEO Tim Cook told analysts on a conference call back then.

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Apple shares hit a new all-time high, making the company even more larger than life than it already was.

Google Finance

Apple's market value moment marks another reminder of the company's unlikely turnaround from near bankruptcy in 1997 to one of the most influential companies on the planet. Part of how the company did that was by creating mass-market products like the iPod music player, iPhone and iPad, which went on to become leading devices in each of their competing markets.

Apple's been led by Cook for the past decade. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs recruited him to help oversee the company's supply chain and operations in 1998. Jobs named him as successor in 2011, just a few months before Jobs died of cancer that year.

At $3 trillion, Apple's value is greater than the annual economic output of the United Kingdom, France, India or Italy, according to data collected by the World Bank. Only Germany, Japan, China and the US are larger.

"Financial returns are simply the result of Apple's innovation, putting our products and customers first, and always staying true to our values," Cook said in a memo to staff after the company reached $1 trillion, according to Reuters. Cook has frequently said that investors looking for Apple to focus on stock performance rather than its products shouldn't invest in the company.

Apple shares closed regular trading at $182.01, valuing the company at $2.99 trillion.