Apple set a record by becoming the first company to be valued at $700bn (£446bn).
The iPhone maker was already the world’s most valuable business, but in early trading its shares rose nearly 1% to $119.75, giving it a market capitalisation of $701.7bn. This is higher than the GDP of all but the top 19 countries in the world.
Apple’s shares have risen around 60% this year, with the success of its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus one of the main reasons behind the surge. Last month it announced that it had sold a record 39.3m iPhones in its third quarter, and predicted that its latest products would help it boost sales by at least 10% over the forthcoming holiday period. It expects to sell more in the Christmas quarter this year than it did in the whole of 2010.
Tim Cook, who succeeded Steve Jobs as chief executive in August 2011, said at the results presentation that demand for the new phones had been “staggering”. He said: “At this point we are selling everything we’ve made” and added that 2014 was “one for the record books”.
The success of the iPhone 6 gave a boost to the company’s shares after they had hovered at around the $100 mark for much of the summer.
Apple has been vying with oil company Exxon Mobil for the accolade of the world’s largest company for a number of years, first overtaking its rival in August 2011 before falling back after concerns that its future products may not live up to past glories.
It regained the top spot in August 2013 after Exxon suffered from falling oil prices and weak earnings. Exxon is now worth around $405bn, while Apple’s technology rivals Microsoft and Google are valued at $392bn and $368bn respectively.
Analysts believe Apple could go even higher, with Michael Corcelli, head of US fund Alexander Alternative Capital, saying he expected its market capitalisation to reach $1trn next year.
But Apple is not the world’s most valuable company in history if inflation is taken into account. CNBC calculated that Microsoft’s peak market capitalisation of $613bn in 1999 would become nearly $875bn at 2014 prices.
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