Trading under various names around the world, they are considered to be:
ExxonMobil (United States) (XOM)
Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands/United Kingdom) (RDS)
BP (United Kingdom) (BP)
Chevron Corporation (United States) (CVX)
ConocoPhillips (United States) (COP)
Total S.A. (France) (TOT)
The supermajors began to appear in the late 1990s, in response to a severe deflation in oil prices. Large petroleum companies began to merge, often in an effort to improve economies of scale, hedge against oil price volatility, and reduce large cash reserves through reinvestment. Exxon and Mobil (1999), BP and Amoco (1998), Total and Petrofina (1999) and subsequently Elf Aquitaine (2000), Chevron and Texaco (2001), and Conoco Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Company (2002) all merged between 1998 and 2002. The result of this trend created some of the largest global corporations as defined by the Forbes Global 2000 ranking, and as of 2007 all are within the top 25.
As of December 1, 2006, ExxonMobil ranks first among the supermajors in terms of size (market capitalization), cash flow (12 months), revenue (12 months), and profits.
As a group, the supermajors control about 6% of global oil and gas reserves with largest supermajor, ExxonMobil, ranked 14th.
Conversely, 88% of global oil and gas reserves are controlled by state-owned oil companies, primarily located in the middle east.
Petroleum supermajors are sometimes collectively referred to as Big Oil, a pejorative term used to describe the individual and collective economic power of the largest oil and gas producers, and their perceived influence on politics, particularly in the United States. Big Oil is often associated with the Energy Lobby.
Usually used to represent the industry as a whole in a pejorative or derogatory manner, "Big Oil" has come to encompass the enormous impact crude oil exerts over first-world industrial society. The term is also utilized to discuss the consumer relationship with oil production and petroleum use, as consumers in the United States and Europe tend to respond to petroleum price spikes by purchasing vehicles with greater fuel efficiency during these periods. Historically, consumer interest in fuel efficiency and the oil debate wanes significantly as pump prices stabilize.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Big Oil’s Not-So-Big Growth Plans / Jan 31st, 2008
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