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Prediction: These Will Be the 10 Largest Stocks by 2035

By Sean Williams - May 30, 2021 at 5:51AM

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Change is inevitable. The biggest stocks in the world by market cap will undoubtedly look a bit different in 14 years.

If there's one constant on Wall Street, it's that nothing remains constant for long. The combination of technological innovation, competitive advantages, acquisitions, and other tangible and intangible factors has a tendency to shake-up the world's largest companies on a regular basis.

For example, in 2004, General Electric, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, Citigroup, Walmart, BP, AIG, Intel, and Bank of America were nine of the 10 largest publicly traded companies by market cap. None are still in the top 10 just 17 years later. In fact, AIG isn't even in the top 250 anymore. 

What might the top 10 look like in 2035? Frankly, we don't know. But given a number of proliferating high-growth trends, it won't stop me from making a prediction. In 14 years, these are likely to be the world's 10 largest publicly traded companies, presented in no particular order.

An hourglass next to stacks of coins and cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

Amazon

Unless e-commerce giant Amazon.com (AMZN 0.77%) decides to spin off its leading cloud infrastructure segment, Amazon Web Services (AWS), I consider it to have the best chance of being the largest company by market cap in 2035. Amazon currently controls more than 40% of all online sales in the U.S., and it's signed up 200 million people to Prime worldwide. The fees it collects from Prime memberships help to ensure it can undercut brick-and-mortar retailers on price.

As for AWS, it grew sales by 30% in 2020 (i.e., during the worst economic downturn in decades). AWS has a current run-rate of $54 billion in annual sales, meaning it alone could fetch a valuation north of $600 billion and still be valued cheaply within the cloud space. Because AWS generates considerably higher margins than retail, it's Amazon's key to a cash flow explosion in the years to come.

A cloud in the middle of a data center that's connected to multiple wireless devices.

Image source: Getty Images.

Microsoft

Despite a myriad of change since 1999, tech stock Microsoft (MSFT -0.50%) is the only company to remain in the top 10 by market cap in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014, 2019, and currently. Thus, it's a safe bet to suggest it'll hang onto a top-10 spot over the coming 14 years.

Although Microsoft is still generating plenty of cash flow from its legacy software and Windows operating system, the cloud is its future. Cloud infrastructure service Azure, along with enterprise and consumer cloud products across all of its core brands (Office, Dynamics, and Windows), can fuel sustainable double-digit or high single-digit growth for a long time to come.

Plus, Microsoft is loaded with cash, meaning it can use acquisitions as a means to boost its growth prospects and remain competitive.

Two kids playing with new iPhones on display in an Apple store.

Image source: Apple.

Apple

Speaking of cash cows, I believe Apple (AAPL -0.53%) remains safely in the top 10, even if its growth rate were to taper a bit. Keep in mind that Apple generated nearly $100 billion in operating cash flow over the trailing 12 months, which means the company has an abundant cash pile to buy back its stock, pay dividends, reinvest in innovation, and make the occasional acquisition to bolster its product portfolio.

In the years to come, Tim Cook will continue to oversee Apple's transition to a services company. Subscription services boast higher margins than most products Apple sells, and will help reduce the revenue lumpiness associated with tech replacement cycles.

Two college student sharing a laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

Facebook

The social media space has proved especially fickle over the past 15 years, so there's certainly the risk Facebook (META -1.26%) won't be one of the 10 largest companies by 2035. It could also be broken up by regulators, which would potentially remove it from consideration.

However, I chose to keep Facebook in the top 10 for two simple reasons. First, it had 44% of the world's population visit one of its owned assets in the first quarter. This makes it unlikely that any social media company will unseat it in the eyes of advertisers anytime soon.

Second, Facebook has only monetized two of its four prized assets (its namesake site and Instagram). When it decides to meaningfully monetize WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, it'll enjoy a massive multiyear growth spurt.

A man working on his laptop while also using his smartphone.

Image source: Getty Images.

Alphabet

As with Facebook, ad-driven operating models come with risks. Thankfully, Alphabet (GOOGL -0.67%) (GOOG -0.73%) has ancillary operations and history on its side.

In terms of ancillary businesses, streaming content provider YouTube has grown into a top-three social media destination, and cloud infrastructure service Google Cloud now has an annual run-rate of more than $16 billion. Eventually, Cloud is going to do for Alphabet what AWS has done (and will continue to do) for Amazon.

Meanwhile, Alphabet's core business -- its Google internet search engine -- should benefit from long periods of economic expansion and the company's insane global share of internet search, which has ranged from 91% to 93% for two years.

A canopy with lights and a deck surrounding a trailer.

Image source: Airbnb.

Airbnb

Perhaps the first big surprise is that I expect stay-and-hosting company Airbnb (ABNB -1.62%) to work its way into the top 10. That's because Airbnb is disrupting both the hotel stay side of the industry as well as the travel side of the equation.

At the moment, Airbnb has 4 million hosts worldwide. This is just a fraction of what the platform is capable of handling given the more than 130 million residences in the U.S. and around 1 billion residences worldwide.

Airbnb has also been pushing its Experiences platform -- i.e., adventures led by local experts. Nothing can stop Airbnb from entrenching itself further in vacation experiences. We're witnessing the early innings of true leisure industry disruption.

A person inserting their credit card into a Square point-of-sale device.

Image source: Square.

Square

Fintech stock Square (SQ -1.13%) also has a very real opportunity to surpass PayPal over the next 14 years and work its way into the top 10.

Although Square should see steady growth from its seller ecosystem, the company's primary driver will be peer-to-peer digital payments platform Cash App. In three years, Cash App's monthly active user count has more than quintupled to 36 million. It's been a more popular download than PayPal's Venmo, and Square has been generating $41 in gross profit per user, compared to less than $5 in acquisition costs per user.

Square also completed the charter process to operate its own bank in March. This gives the company a full gamut of financial services it can offer in the high-margin digital banking space. 

A woman holding up a credit card in her right hand.

Image source: Getty Images.

Visa

As of May 25, payment processing giant Visa (V -0.14%) was clinging the No. 10 spot with a $487 billion market cap, $3 billion ahead of JPMorgan Chase. I believe in 14 years it'll still be clinging to a top-10 spot and likely pushing above a $1 trillion valuation.

Visa is a cyclical business, which is a simple way of saying that it does really well when the U.S. and global economy are expanding and it struggles a bit when recession arise. However, this is a numbers game Visa is well-prepared to play. Periods of expansion last significantly longer than contractions. What's more, Visa isn't a lender, which means it's not required to set aside cash for delinquent loans when recession strike. Thus why it bounces back so quickly from economic contractions.

With a majority of the world's transactions still conducted in cash, Visa's growth runway extends decades into the future.

Warren Buffett at his company's annual shareholder meeting.

A jubilant Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway CEO. Image source: The Motley Fool.

Berkshire Hathaway

In 14 years, it's unlikely that Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are going to be running Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A 0.98%) (BRK.B 1.01%) or dictating its investments. Thankfully, Buffett has laid out a winning game plan for his successors that should result in continued growth.

Similar to the Visa growth thesis (Visa is one of Berkshire's four-dozen holdings), most of Buffett's investment portfolio is tied up in cyclical businesses. The Oracle of Omaha has always thrived on playing the numbers game and betting on multiyear periods of economic expansion. He also loves a good dividend stock, which is why Coca-Cola and American Express have been so valuable.

The wildcard here will be investment lieutenants Todd Combs and Ted Weschler. If they maintain Buffett's long-term approach and avoid trying to time the market, Berkshire Hathaway should be one of the 10 largest stocks come 2035.

Miniature boxes and a mini basket sat atop a tablet and open laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

Sea Limited

A final surprise that could find its way into the top 10 is Singapore-based Sea Limited (SE -14.90%). A veritable no-name a couple of years ago, Sea has three extremely fast-growing businesses that could all help it reach a trillion-dollar valuation by 2035.

While mobile gaming is its primary generator of positive adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) for the time being, it's e-commerce platform Shopee that'll be Sea's core sales and profit driver over the long run. "But what about Amazon?" you ask? Don't fret. Sea is primarily focused on emerging markets where the middle class is still taking shape. Sea and Amazon can thrive in their own separate niches.

Sea also has a nascent mobile wallet segment that could provide financial solutions to largely underbanked regions of Southeastern Asia. It has all the tools needed to be one of the world's largest companies.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Bank of America, American Express, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase are advertising partners of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company.

Sean Williams owns shares of Amazon, Bank of America, ExxonMobil, and Square. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Airbnb, Inc., Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), Facebook, Microsoft, PayPal Holdings, Sea Limited, Square, and Visa. The Motley Fool recommends Intel and recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon, long January 2022 $75 calls on PayPal Holdings, long January 2023 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), long January 2023 $57.50 calls on Intel, long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple, short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon, short January 2023 $200 puts on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2023 $57.50 puts on Intel, short June 2021 $240 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Amazon.com, Inc. Stock Quote
Amazon.com, Inc.
AMZN
$144.28 (0.77%) $1.10
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
BRK.A
$459,655.41 (0.98%) $4,485.41
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
BRK.B
$305.89 (1.01%) $3.07
Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
AAPL
$172.27 (-0.53%) $0.92
Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
MSFT
$292.00 (-0.50%) $-1.47
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$121.26 (-0.67%) $0.82
Meta Platforms, Inc. Stock Quote
Meta Platforms, Inc.
META
$178.61 (-1.26%) $-2.28
Visa Inc. Stock Quote
Visa Inc.
V
$216.12 (-0.14%) $0.30
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOG
$121.98 (-0.73%) $0.90
Block, Inc. Stock Quote
Block, Inc.
SQ
$85.74 (-1.13%) $0.98
Sea Limited Stock Quote
Sea Limited
SE
$76.56 (-14.90%) $-13.41
Airbnb, Inc. Stock Quote
Airbnb, Inc.
ABNB
$124.00 (-1.62%) $-2.04

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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