Here Are China's 20 Biggest Brands—How Many Do You recognise?

Photo: BrandZ

China’s most valuable brands dominate the fastest-growing, second-biggest economy on the planet. Many of them dwarf famous American companies such as Best Buy or MetLife. but how many of these Asian giants can you name?

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Consultancy BrandZ ranked the top 50 companies by brand value, and found that China’s blue chips increased their value by 16 per cent, or $325 billion, over the prior year. 

We’ve excerpted the top 20 names here. Take a look at the list and you will probably recognise very few of them. Most are State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), or have been until recently.

Mickey Clark, chief planning officer at Ogilvy & Mather China, writes in BrandZ’s report:

“China’s SOEs have taken full advantage of the country’s favourable regulatory environment and access to abundant resources to build some of the largest businesses in their respective sectors. These SOEs often supersede their international counterparts in the sheer size of their market share and revenue. Such dominance has made them darlings of investors in capital markets. But there is an old Chinese saying: ‘Good times will not last forever.’ While this originally referred to one’s own fortune, SOE leaders should take this message to heart as it applies to their businesses, too.”

About The Study

Millward Brown Optimor, the global brand strategy and financial consultancy of Millward Brown, assigns value based on the intrinsic value of the brand, which is determined by its ability to generate demand. The dollar value assigned to each brand is sum of all future earnings that brand is forecast to produce, discounted to present-day value. Data sources include an annual BrandZ quantitative study of customer behaviour and brand perceptions and financial performance information provided by Bloomberg.

The brand value used in these rankings is calculated by multiplying the intangible branded earnings (total company earnings generated by each business that carries the brand) by brand contribution (the degree to which that brand plays a role in creating earnings) and the brand multiple (the potential growth of these branded earnings).

All the brands ranked in the China Top 50 study are publicly traded, report positive earnings, and were formed by a China mainland enterprise. In addition, for financial institutions, 20 per cent of earnings must come from retail banking and for telecoms, landline, wireless, and cable are valued together.

1. China Mobile

2. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (ICBC)

Founded in 1984, ICBC is the world's largest bank in market capitalisation, customer deposits, and profitability. The bank, which is headquartered in Beijing, had a market capitalisation of $240 billion in 2010. The bank was a state-owned enterprise until 2006.

Brand Value : $43.9 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: 15%

3. China Construction Bank

China Construction Bank was founded in 1954 as the People's Construction Bank of China, a state-owned bank that financed government projects. Today, the publicly traded company, provides loans to Chinese industrial corporations in the oil, gas, power, and telecommunications industries.

Brand Value: $22.0 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: 1%

4. Bank of China

The Bank of China, a state-owned enterprise, was established in 1912 with the fall of the Qing Dynasty and served as China's central bank until 1949. It became a specialised foreign exchange bank when the country became the People's Republic of China.

Today the bank has 10,000 branches in China and is present in 30 other countries. Its core business includes corporate banking, personal banking, and insurance. It also has a large credit card business.

Brand Value: $18.6 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: -17%

5. Agricultural Bank of China

Agricultural Bank of China is one of the country's largest commercial banks.

It was founded in 1951 as the state-owned Agricultural Cooperative Bank and served farmers in rural China. Today the bank still specialises in providing financial products and services to agricultural and industrial businesses.

Brand Value: $17.3 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: 5%

6. Baidu

7. China Life

China Life, part of the state-owned China Life Insurance (Group) Company, is China's largest insurance company. Its business includes life insurance, property and casualty insurance, pension plans, asset management, and industrial investment.

The company is also one of China's largest institutional investors and the only domestic insurance group with assets exceeding $150 Billion.

Brand Value: $15.3 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: -17%

8. Sinopec

Sinopec, also called China Petrochemical Corporation, operates China's largest chain of gas stations, manufactures industrial products, and is engaged in oil exploration and refinement.

Like other National Oil Companies (NOCs), Sinopec has high brand awareness because of the media attention surrounding pricing, safety standards and overseas expansion. To overcome this and the image of being state-owned, its marketing efforts emphasise how oil companies contribute to society's welfare.

Brand Value: $13.8 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: N/A

9. PetroChina

PetroChina is China's largest oil and gas producer and one of the country's leading companies in terms of revenue. As well as exploring for crude oil and natural gas, the company also refines and markets products like plastics, rubbers and fertilizers.

Like Sinopec, PetroChina is state-owned and has high brand awareness due to the large chain of gas stations it supplies.

Brand Value: $13.8 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: -3%

10. Tencent

Tencent, founded in 1998, is China's largest internet portal.

The brand provides many online products and services, of which the most well known is QQ, an instant messaging service with more than 700 million active users. In 2011, Tencent moved to an open platform business model and entered into a partnership with Zynga.

Its revenue is mostly derived from online advertising.

Brand Value: $12.6 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: 3%

11. China Telecom

Founded in 2002, China Telecom is a predominately state-owned company that provides landline and mobile telephone services, as well as internet service.

Brand Value: $10.9 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: N/A

12. Ping An

Ping An began in 1988 as a property and casualty insurance specialist. Today it is a financial services conglomerate with 60 million customers in Central and Eastern China, specializing in insurance, banking, and investment.

Brand Value: $9.7 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: 15%

13. Moutai

Moutai produces the sorghum-based (grain) liquor of the same name. Although the company was founded in 1915, Moutai has been produced in China for nearly 2,000 years.

While the product itself has deep roots in Chinese culture--the brand refers to Moutai as 'China's national drink'--this has also presented problems for the brand. Mainly, it is challenged to stay hip and relevant to young drinkers. Recent campaigns have emphasised Moutai as a 'green' drink.

Brand Value: $9.1 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: 58%

14. China Merchants Bank Company, Ltd.

China Unicom

China Unicom is the third largest landline and mobile phone provider after China Telecom and China Mobile, respectively.

Another state-controlled agency, the company is packaging their landline, mobile, and broadband businesses under the WO brand and promoting it heavily to families and businesses.

Brand Value: $6.3 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: N/A

16. Air China

Air China is one of the country's three leading airlines and is one of the top 10 airlines worldwide in terms of destinations served. Founded in 1988, when the government divided the operating divisions of the Civil Aviation Administration into airlines, today Air China operates 170 domestic routes and 69 international routes in 29 countries.

Air China's phoenix logo, derived from the ancient Chinese collection of mythological stories called 'Shan Hai Jing.' In this myth, the phoenix comes from Asia and flies over oceans, bringing peace.

Brand Value: $4.7 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: -15%

17. Wu Liang Ye

Wu Liang Ye is China's leading producer of traditional grain alcohol.

The company, which is based in an area of southwest China known for its 2000 year old liquor culture, is trying to broaden its brand proposition from being 'China's liquor king' to a brand more associated with an affluent lifestyle.

Interestingly, The Wu Liang Ye Group also manufactures precision plastic products and injection molds, and is engaged in pharmaceuticals.

Brand Value: $4.0 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: 65%

18. Mengniu

19. China Pacific Insurance (Group) Company (CPIC)

China Pacific is one of China's largest insurers, serving 56 million individual and 3.3 million corporate clients. Its portfolio includes life, property, and casualty insurance products, in addition to substantial investments.

Brand Value: $3.4 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: -3%

20. ChangYu

The oldest company in the top 20, ChangYu was established in 1892 and is the leader in China's wine industry. Producing a variety of white and red wines and brandies, it distributes throughout domestically and in 30 other countries, including France, Germany, and Italy.

ChangYu's brand image focuses its upscale products, like its Chateaux Alifei, produced at the company's European-style estate, and ChangYu ice wine, a dessert wine made from frozen grapes.

Brand Value: $3.2 Billion

Year-on-Year Change: 77%

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