The 10 biggest Australian companies — should you be buying them?

There’s been some changes in the top 10.

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Thanks to a bullish run on the Australian stock exchange, some of Australia’s biggest companies have gotten even bigger. Retailers, banks, miners, technology and even healthcare stocks have beaten forecasts. So what are the top 10 public companies in Australia, why are they so big and, perhaps more importantly, should you be buying them?

10. Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL)

Woodside is Australia’s biggest independent oil and gas company. It helps feed the world’s insatiable need for oil by producing around 900,000 barrels of oil equivalent each day! It has roughly 4,000 employees throughout the world and boasts a market capital of $32.4 billion.

9. CSL (ASX: CSL)

CSL is Australia’s premier pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. Its shares have rallied over 100% in the past 24 months, placing it above many other companies listed on the ASX. It boasts a market capital of $33.14 billion and employs over 10,000 people worldwide.

8. Wesfarmers (ASX: WES)

Since it’s the owner of Coles supermarkets, Bunnings Warehouse, Target, Officeworks, Kmart and other industrial companies, it’s no wonder Wesfarmers makes the list. It employs around 200,000 and has a market capital of $43.3 billion.

7. Woolworths (ASX: WOW)

Despite Wesfarmers’ diversification, Woolworths has a slightly larger market capitalisation ($43.4 billion) and sits comfortably at number 7. Woolworths currently employs 197,000 people and has a return on equity of 26%. It is the owner of Masters home improvement stores.

6. Telstra (ASX: TLS)

Our number one telecommunications company is a big step above the two supermarket giants and weighs in at a massive $63.95 billion. Its market capitalisation has increased dramatically thanks to strong share price increases in the past 24 months. Telstra has 12.4 billion shares on offer and 37,000 employees.

5. National Australia Bank (ASX: NAB)

Out of the ‘big four’ NAB’s share price has underperformed its rivals since the GFC. Its failed UK venture has resulted in it being the only bank not at all-time highs. This year it recorded over $5 billion in profits yet dropped its total number of staff by 1,172 to 42,164. It has a market capitalisation of $84 billion.

4. ANZ (ASX: ANZ)

Perhaps the most exciting of the big four banks is ANZ. Despite low interest rates, ANZ will pay out a 5% dividend to hundreds of thousands of Australians. It recorded strong profits for the year, but its share price has risen quicker, rising over 50% in value in just 18 months. It has a market capitalisation of $92 billion and employs 48,000 people worldwide.

3. Westpac (ASX: WBC)

Westpac is Australia’s number two bank and number three company by market capitalisation. It too has enjoyed a great run-up in share price but many have doubted it can go much higher. It has a market capitalisation of $106,796 million and employs 36,000 people.

2. BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP)

The mining giant has lost its crown at number one, but when people refer to ‘the big Australian’ everyone knows who they’re talking about. BHP has a market capitalisation of $121.5 billion – four times the size of its rival Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) – and employs 49,500 people around the globe.

1. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA)

Recently Commonwealth became the biggest company in Australia thanks partly to BHP’s falling share price, but largely due to the banks’ recent 57% gains. It has a market capitalisation of $124 billion and employs 45,000. It recently declared a profit of $7.6 billion and a dividend over 5%!

Foolish takeaway

In the top 10, very few companies are a good buy. It seems everybody already knows how good they are and have sent their share price skyrocketing.

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