National Post - Financial Post Magazine
FIVE DECADES OF THE FP 500
To celebrate the upcoming 50th edition of Canada’s most comprehensive corporate ranking, we take a look back at some of the investing lessons learned in the first of a five-part series
In the year 1964 U.S. President Lyndon Johnson won in a landslide over Barry Goldwater, Jimmy Hoffa was convicted of fraud, conspiracy and jury tampering, and Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) defeated Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight boxing title. Canadians were issued Social Insurance cards for the first time, the government passed an act to change the name of the national airline to Air Canada, a bill creating Canada’s Maple Leaf flag passed in the House of Commons, and the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
A lot has obviously changed since then, but one thing that was around then is still around today: the forerunner of the FP 500 ranking of Canada’s largest corporations, then a list of a mere 100 companies, mostly industrials, and ranked primarily by assets. The 1964 ranking appeared in The Financial Post, a then-weekly broadsheet, on Jan. 15, 1966. Two other lists appeared that ranked the top 32 financial institutions and the top eight retailers. Almost 50 years have passed, yet many of the top names remain the same. Bell Telephone Co. of Canada was No. 1 on the main list in 1964, while BCE Inc. is No. 17 on the most recent ranking that appeared in June
2013. Royal Bank of Canada then, as now, was the nation’s top bank, and 1964’s top retailer, Loblaw Cos., is today the second-biggest subsidiary, accounting for the bulk of revenues of its parent company, George Weston Ltd., which is the top food and drug retailer in the country.
But the list has certainly changed, most notably by expanding over the years to rank the 500 largest public, private and government corporations by revenue, as well as by plenty of other factors. What took less than a page to divulge now takes up more than 50 pages. A lot of the companies that appeared in 1964 also no longer exist. Names such as Simpsons-Sears Ltd., Dominion Stores Ltd., International Nickel Co. of Canada (Inco) and Canadian Breweries Ltd. have all been swallowed up by others over the years. We’ll take a look at where some of the biggest companies ended up, and why, in future issues leading up to the 50th edition of the FP
500 in June. But to coincide with the investing theme of this issue, let’s take a look at some of the dominant events that have affected the market over the past five decades.