Apple Now Worth More Than Microsoft, Google Combined

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How high can Apple soar? The tech juggernaut is closing in on $500 per share, a dramatic psychological threshold that underscores the company’s stunning performance over the last decade. How massive has Apple become? It’s now worth more by market capitalization than Google and Microsoft combined. The company’s latest stock price surge is being fueled by rumors that a new version of the iPad — the iPad 3 — will appear next month.

In mid-day trading Friday, Apple shares were up 0.6% t0 $496.14, bringing the company’s market capitalization — or the number of outstanding shares times its stock price — to a staggering $462 billion, or nearly half a trillion dollars. That’s greater than the sum of Microsoft’s market cap — $257 billion — and Google’s market cap — $197 billion.

So what’s driving Apple’s sky-high valuation? Scorching financial performance: Last quarter the company reported a profit of $13.1 billion on sales of $46.3 billion. And of course, Apple is sitting on nearly $100 billion in cash.

It’s hard to put amounts this large in perspective, but various outlets around the web have been trying. David Leonhardt of The New York Times offers these comparisons:

— With a market value of about $460 billion, Apple is worth more than Google, Goldman Sachs, General Motors, Ford, Starbucks and Boeing combined.

— Apple is now worth almost twice as much as Microsoft (about $258 billion) and more than twice as much as Google ($198 billion).

— It is also worth more than twice as much as General Electric (about $202 billion), I.B.M. (about $224 billion) or Wal-Mart ($212 billion).

— Apple — ranked 35th in the Fortune 500, which is based on annual sales — is worth eight times as much as the company just below it on the Fortune list (Boeing, at about $56.5  billion). Its value is 20 times as much as the company just above it (Medco Health Solutions, about $23.4 billion).

And over at Fortune‘s Apple blog, Philip Elmer-DeWitt compiles an amusing list of things that Apple is now worth more than:

— The gross domestic product of Sweden ($458 billion)

— All the gold in the Federal Reserve, and then some. ($350 billion)

— All the illegal drugs in the world, and then some ($321 billion)

— Six and a half years of global coffee consumption ($70 billion/year)

— More than six years of U.S. beef consumption ($74 billion/year)

— More than five U.S. Civil Wars ($74-$84 billion each)

— More than 2.5 Apollo space programs ($145-$170 billion apiece)

— Three times the entire U.S. clothing industry ($150 billion)

— Fourteen National Football Leagues ($33 billion for all the teams combined)

Given that Apple executives say that the company literally cannot produce enough of its wildly popular iPhones and iPads to meet global demand, there’s no reason to believe that Apple’s ascent will not continue. As they say on Wall Street, there is plenty of upside potential here.