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This was a good day for Apple! Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

August 9, 2011: Apple overtakes oil giant ExxonMobil to become the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.

The milestone caps an astonishing turnaround for Cupertino. Just 15 years earlier, it looked like it was just about “game over” for Apple.

A meteoric rise for Apple

Just like it’s hard to convey how different it felt being an Apple fan in the 1990s compared to today, Apple’s meteoric 2000s rise was something you really needed to be around to see.

CEO Steve Jobs’ near-flawless series of decisions and new products was amazing to witness. First came the iMac G3 in the late 1990s, followed by the widescreen iMac G4 a few years later, the iPod, the Apple Store, the iPhone, iTunes, the iPad and so much more.

As this improbable series of hits ran on, Apple began to creep up in the stock market rankings. In January 2006, it passed Dell, the company whose founder once said he’d shut down Apple and refund its shareholders.

Apple valuation passes Microsoft, then ExxonMobil

In May 2010, Apple overtook Microsoft in market capitalization, surpassing the tech giant that dominated the previous decade.

By August 2011, Apple had been closing in on ExxonMobil for some time. Then Apple reported record-breaking earnings for the previous quarter. With year-on-year revenue up 90%, the company reported the sale of 20.34 million iPhones, more than twice the number sold in the same quarter a year earlier. It also sold 9.25 million iPads, triple the number sold during the tablet’s 2010 debut quarter.

Apple’s profits, meanwhile, surged 124%. At the same time, ExxonMobil underperformed, due to tanking oil prices as a result of financial turmoil.

The two events conspired to briefly push Apple into the lead, with the company’s market value hitting $337 billion, compared to ExxonMobil’s $334 billion.

Apple valuation: Up and up

Today, Apple maintains a healthy lead over ExxonMobil. On this day in 2021, Exxon had a market cap of $243 billion. Apple, meanwhile, sits at $2.4 trillion. For Cupertino, it’s been a steady upward trajectory.

Apple passed a major milestone in 2018 by becoming the first public U.S. company valued at a massive $1 trillion. Prior to this, it became the first such company to hit $700 billion, $800 billion and $900 billion market caps.

In early 2022, Apple surged past the $3 trillion mark, before receding amid a broader pullback among tech stocks. The company’s market capitalization currently sits at $2.65 trillion. Astonishing!

Don’t you wish you’d invested in AAPL back in 1996? I sure do!

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