Is the world’s first $1 trillion company cause for concern?

Apple is leading the charge to become the world’s first $1 trillion company. Many industry analysts predict the iPhone maker will break the $1 trillion threshold later this year, with Amazon set to push them all the way in a bid to become the first company to reach the 13 digit mark. Facebook and Alphabet are also in the running to break the trillion dollar ceiling within the next 12 months.

Apple is currently in pole position with a market value of $869 billion, while Alphabet, which has a market value of $729 billion, is in second position and Microsoft is in third place with a valuation of $664 billion. However many analysts believe that Amazon is far more likely to take the crown as the first $1 trillion company because it is growing so quickly. Amazon is currently the world’s fourth most-valuable company with a market value of $566 billion.

George Salmon, an equity analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, said markets were forecast to continue their boom in 2018 and that it was ‘just a matter of time’ before one of the big US tech stocks tipped over into a trillion-dollar company. “With Facebook, Google and Amazon attracting an ever-increasing number of eyeballs on screen, the US tech sector has more than played its part in the global stock market rally,” Salmon said. “However, it’s Apple, one of the older tech giants, that’s in pole position to break through the $1 trillion barrier.”

The increasing dominance of Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook cannot be ignored. The question is: is the success of the ‘big five’ to be hailed as a capitalist success or should it be put down as unfairly monopolising the market?

Their increasing dominance is fuelling concerns about competition and data privacy and some corners are now calling on greater regulations to curb their growth.

Jonathan Kanter, a Washington-based antitrust attorney at Paul Weiss, believes that attitudes towards the ‘big five’ are slowly changing. "People are asking questions about whether the tools and principles that have been used previously are the right ones to continue using,” he said. "There are certainly lots of people who think that there needs to be some change."

One suggestion has been to enforce European-like laws on these US-based companies. Over the last five or so years, the EU, and its member states, has clamped down on the ‘big five’ for everything from tax evasion to anti-competitive tactics. In 2013, the European Commission fined Microsoft for giving preferential treatment to its own browser, Internet Explorer. This year, it fined Facebook for providing "incorrect or misleading" information during its acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp. Just last month, Amazon agreed to the European Commission’s demands to stop enforcing contracts deemed anti-competitive for other e-book publishers. And Google’s parent company Alphabet has been forced to repay taxes in multiple European countries and is currently subject to an EU investigation into how its shopping services in search work.

“The EU actions show that there are things that could be done," Professor John Kwoka of Boston’s Northeasten University said. "Whether they would be a big deal or a little deal, it’s hard to know, but the EU has taken a crack at it and we’ve mostly taken a pass."

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