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Apple zooms to No. 17 on Fortune 500 list, tops IBM

The iPhone maker is No. 17 in revenues and No. 3 in profits on the Fortune 500, passing blue-chip tech stalwart IBM.

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the third-generation iPad.
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the third-generation iPad.
Donald Bell/CNET

Apple's is movin' on up the Fortune 500 list, passing computer heavyweight IBM.

Apple landed at No. 17, up from No. 35, in terms of 2011 revenue, which was a cool $108.2 billion.

To put Apple's meteoric rise into perspective, blue-chip tech stalwart IBM dropped one spot to No. 19, with 2011 revenues of $106.9 billion.

And Hewlett-Packard is also feeling the heat from Apple. Though Apple's Silicon Valley neighbor moved up one spot to No. 10, with revenue of $127.2 billion, HP is not the profit juggernaut that Apple is.

Apple was No.3 on the list in terms of profits ($25.9 billion), only topped by the two oil giants, Exxon and Chevron. HP was ranked No. 24. Apple also bested IBM, which was No. 9 on the list of the most profitable companies.

Microsoft also ranked right up there with Apple on profitability: the software company was No.4 with $23.1 billion in profits (but was only No. 37 in terms of revenue).

So, what's driving Apple's success? "Under CEO Tim Cook, the company continued pumping out new products -- like a significantly upgraded version of the iPad tablet," said Fortune.

Fortune continued. "Apple nearly doubled its earnings per share in 2011, compared to 2010. That helped nudge management to announce plans for the firm's first dividend since 1995, returning some of the $97.6 billion in cash it had accumulated."

Apple's gross margin -- an important indicator of profitability -- rose to 47.4 percent in the most recent quarter, compared to 41.4 percent in the year-ago quarter.

And Apple said that it sold 11.8 million iPads during the most recent quarter, a 151 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter.

Apple is No. 3 on the Fortune 500 list of the most profitable companies:

  • Exxon Mobile: $41 billion
  • Chevron: $26.9 billion
  • Apple: $25.9 billion
  • Microsoft: $23 billion
  • Ford Motor: $20.2 billion