Talk Story


Business rankings show
the U.S. has work to do

THE COVER story of the latest issue of Business Week is "Restoring trust in corporate America." While American CEOs struggle to raise the noses of their Learjets above the economic horizon, protracted downturn in demand, dismal earnings reports and an accounting credibility crisis are making lives at the top unpleasant.

Meanwhile, the magazine's "IT 100," a ranking of the top information technology companies in the world, shows the U.S. no longer leads the way in this fast-growing sector. When the rankings were launched in 1998, all but 23 of the companies making the list were American. Five years later, 49 of the top 100 companies are foreign.

In fact, only three U.S. firms made the top 10. Dell Computer is No. 5, Affiliated Computer Services, which handles other companies' computer needs, is No. 7 and L-3 Communications Holdings, communications supplier to the defense industry, is No. 10.

THEY ALMOST beat us in speed skating and tied us in soccer. Now, South Korea has challenged U.S. pre-eminence in information technology, placing three companies in the IT top ten, led by industry No. 1, Samsung, which makes cell phones, consumer electronics and semiconductors.

In fact, seven Asian companies made the top ten: Taiwan also has three companies on the list and Hong Kong's China Mobile, the top cell phone operator in China, came in at No. 6.

The criteria for the rankings were the latest figures for annual profitability, shareholder return, total revenue and revenue growth.

Based on that, IBM came in at No. 21. Despite its being the biggest IT company listed, bringing in $83.3 billion in revenue and keeping $7.2 billion in profits for a 31.1 percent return on equity, shareholders saw the company's stock price drop 27.6 percent.

Other familiar U.S. companies listed included Electronic Data Systems at No. 11, Microsoft No. 27, Apple No. 52, Oracle No. 53 and Hewlett-Packard No. 99.

America is by no means out of the game, but in information technology, the magazine says, "No longer are American companies first, foremost and pretty much only."

ANOTHER list, the Business Week/Golf Digest's "Top 18 Places to Meet," should be particularly interesting to us in Hawaii. It's based on a survey of corporate meeting planners surveyed by the golf magazine's research arm.

Of the top golf resorts selected, only one is in Hawaii - Lanai's Manele Bay Hotel. Honorable mentions included the Big Island's Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort and Spa, but the rest of our local offerings missed the cut.

The meeting planners considered a list of 100 golf resorts and judged their meeting rooms, golf courses, climate and services, such as high-speed Internet connections, video conferencing, restaurants, gyms and spas.

Three states fared better than Hawaii: Florida, which had six of the 18 resorts; California with five; Arizona with three. Colorado and Texas, like Hawaii, each had one.

SOMEHOW overlooked were island gems, such as Mauna Loa Bay, former site of the Senior Skins; the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, home of the PGA's Mercedes Championship; Maui's Wailea Resort, Oahu's Koolina and Kauai's Princeville - the list goes on.

"The extra flying time is worth it," the authors said of Manele Bay. "Perhaps no resort on the list can claim to be more secluded." Seclusion, however, isn't a primary criterion for meeting planners.

What is important includes traffic to and from the resort, the proximity and quality of the golf course and the range of available meeting spaces and guestrooms.

After all, how can a CEO restore trust in corporate America if he's crammed into a mountain-view standard room while the guy running the warehouse gets an oceanfront suite?

John Flanagan is the Star-Bulletin's contributing editor.
He can be reached at:

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