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Apple is the new most valuable company of all time (updated)

Despite what have been seen as recent stumbles from a company we have come to think of as near-infallible, Apple can lay claim to a new piece of history today with the announcement that – thanks to a second surge in the price of its stock in as many days of trading – the company is now, officially, the most valuable company in Wall Street history.

The company’s stock rose almost 3 percent today to $665.15 per share, after a similar rise on Friday afternoon, raising the company’s overall value to a staggering $624 billion, an amount described by the Associated Press as “the world’s highest ever. It beat the record market capitalization set by Microsoft Corp. in the heady days of the Internet boom.”

Microsoft’s record comes from December 1999, when the company’s value peaked at $616.3 billion according to Dow Jones analyst Howard Silverblatt (Oddly enough, the Hollywood Reporter claims that Microsoft topped out at $621 billion, presumably an error, considering that the Dow Jones expert cites a lower figure; either way, Apple has beaten the record, however).

Apple has actually been the most valuable company in the market for a few months now, since overtaking Exxon Mobil this past January; that company’s total value – $406 billion – now seems to pale in comparison to the impressive figure surrounding the computer giant. The record value comes just a month after Apple’s share price fell in the face of what was considered to be a disappointing second quarter in terms of sales for the company, despite profits rising 21 percent when compared with the same period in 2011. The relatively quick turnaround can be put down to not only common sense realization that a year-on-year increase in profits is actually a good thing, even if it’s not up to the level you’d been hoping for, but also the rumors surrounding a number of new releases in the near future, including a new generation of iPad, the iPhone 5 and the long-awaited push into the television space.

Although it is far ahead of competitors in overall value, Apple is far from alone in being a valuable tech company; of the five most valuable companies on the market, three are computer companies, with Microsoft coming in just behind Exxon Mobil to become the third most valuable, and IBM taking fifth place.

The good news for Apple comes amid even worse news for the continually-ailing Facebook. Shares in that company continue to hit new lows, now being worth less than half of their initial $38 price, a fact that has knocked more than $10 billion off the value of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s share in the company (Zuckerberg’s share is said to be worth around $9.5 billion, now, with the company’s overall value down to $40 billion from its original $100 billion+ estimate). According to estimates, Apple stock is now worth roughly fifteen times the current value of Facebook stock. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is looking down and smiling.

Originally published on 8-20-2012

Update 8-21-2012 by Jeffrey VC: A lot of sites like TechCrunch are re-reporting a Columbia Journalism Review piece which states that, if you adjust for inflation, Apple is not the most valuable company of all time and in fact IBM is the winner. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Though CJR thought it was fun to lash out at prominent publications, the figures it gave for IBM were false, as it admitted in an update. IBM’s 1967 offering was valued at $192 billion after you adjust for inflation. If you want to get technical and take inflation into account, Microsoft’s $616.3 billion valuation in 1999 would equate to about $847.5 billion today. Of course, that is if you want to take inflation into account. If you don’t, Apple takes the crown. Both ways of viewing it are accurate. If we do care about it, we should tell Hollywood. Adjusting for inflation, Avatar moves from the #1 U.S. movie of all time to #14 and Gone with the Wind takes the crown.

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