Minnesota companies on the move in Fortune 500

  • Article by: PATRICK KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 8, 2012 - 2:55 PM

Nineteen Minnesota companies kept their spots in the Fortune 500, but only one - UnitedHealth Group - held steady.

Fortune's annual list of largest companies includes 19 companies based in Minnesota -- one fewer than last year after Alliant Techsystems officially moved its headquarters from Eden Prairie to Arlington, Va.

In September the big defense contractor announced that it would move its headquarters in order to be closer to customers and competitors in the Washington, D.C., area. The move only involved a dozen or so of its top executives, and the company still has more than 2,000 of its 17,300 employees in Minnesota.

But Alliant's relocation plus the addition of two Connecticut-based companies, Starwood Hotels & Resorts at No. 434 and Frontier Communications at No. 464, now gives the Nutmeg State the distinction of having the most Fortune 500 companies per capita. Minnesota, which held that title last year, is now ranked second by that measure.

At the top of Fortune's list is Exxon Mobil, whose revenues jumped 28 percent to $452.9 billion, helping Exxon reclaim the top spot in the Fortune 500 from Wal-Mart Stores. No. 500 on the Fortune 500 list was Long Beach, Calif.-based Molina Healthcare with $4.77 billion in annual sales.

Of the five Minnesota companies that gained spots on the Fortune list, Mosaic Co. added the most -- up 78 spots on the strength of a 32 percent gain in revenues at the global fertilizer company. Ecolab Inc. (No. 365) whose annual revenues were $6.8 billion rose 13 spots, but the St. Paul -based company is poised to rise further on Fortune's 2012 list as it fully integrates the acquisition of Nalco, which it acquired in the fourth quarter last year. Analysts expect the two companies when fully combined will have annual revenue of about $12 billion, enough to put Ecolab in the top half of Fortune's list.

Paint and coatings manufacturer Valspar Corp. is the largest Minnesota public company that didn't make the Fortune list. Valspar's annual revenue last year was $3.9 billion, but revenues grew 22 percent and it is likely to be the next Minnesota company to grow onto the Fortune 500.

Among the Minnesota companies on the list, 13 of them have slid in the rankings -- including Nash Finch Co., which dropped 49 spots, the most spots lost among Minnesota companies. Nash Finch is ranked No. 498, and its sales dropped 3.7 percent last year. The big grocery wholesaler is in danger of falling off the 2013 list unless it can reverse that negative sales trend.

Also on the Fortune 500 list are two large Minnesota-based cooperatives -- Inver Grove Heights-based CHS (No. 78) and Arden Hills-based Land O'Lakes (No. 210). CHS rose 25 spots on the list as sales increased 46.1 percent to $36.9 billion.

Also on the list is fraternal benefits society Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. The financial services firm with offices in Minneapolis and Appleton, Wis., ranked No. 332. Thrivent revenues grew 5 percent last year to $7.8 billion.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926

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