Press release

23 Sep 2021 Zurich, CH

The world’s top 500 family businesses include 16 Swiss family companies

Zurich, 23 September 2021. EY and the University of St. Gallen have published the 2021 Family Business Index. According to this index, 16 family businesses based in Switzerland are among the 500 largest family businesses in the world, with annual sales of around CHF 245 billion (USD 263.9 billion).

Related topics Family enterprise

 

  • Sixteen Swiss family businesses have a combined annual revenue of more than CHF 240 billion  
  • Measured in terms of revenue, Switzerland occupies the sixth rank in the Family Business Index 2021 rankings  
  • Five family businesses based in Switzerland – Roche, Gunvor, Kühne + Nagel, Tetra Laval and Richemont – are in the top 100 worldwide

EY and the University of St. Gallen have published the 2021 Family Business Index. According to this index, 16 family businesses based in Switzerland are among the 500 largest family businesses in the world, with annual sales of around CHF 245 billion (USD 263.9 billion). This puts Switzerland in sixth place. The top rank is occupied by the US, with sales of around CHF 2,300 billion, followed by Germany (CHF 1,008 billion), France (CHF 421 billion), South Korea (CHF 279 billion) and India (CHF 257 billion). 

Five Swiss businesses in the top 100 

Five family businesses based in Switzerland are among the top 100: Roche Holding AG (16), Gunvor SA (24), Kühne + Nagel International AG (66), Tetra Laval International SA (99) and Compagnie Financière Richemont (100). The following Swiss companies are among the world’s top 500 family businesses: Liebherr-International SA (116), DKSH Holding AG (130), Schindler Holding Ltd (132), Emil Frey Group (163), Barry Callebaut AG 2 (218), Swatch Group (261), AMAG Automobil- und Motoren AG (389), Firmenich International SA (396), MSC Cruises SA (420), Omya AG (446), Stadler Rail (457). The companies employ a combined total of more than 567,000 people. Sascha Stahl, Head of Family Business at EY in Switzerland says: “This is a very strong showing, which demonstrates the innovation of Swiss family businesses at the global level. Most of these companies have also established themselves internationally through distinctly expansive business models.” 

Only five percent of CEOs are women 

None of the Swiss family businesses are led by a female CEO. A similar situation is also seen globally: only around five percent of CEOs in family businesses are women. Sascha Stahl puts this finding into perspective: “Here, we see that the global trend is not reflected in the same way in family businesses. For investors, influencers and regulated organizations, female role models at senior management level are very important. When it comes to succession planning, women do not make it to the top of family businesses at the same rate.” 

The US are the global leader in family businesses 

The US have the most companies in the top 500 – with 119, or 23.8 percent. Seven out of ten of the world’s largest family businesses are based in the US – including retail giant Walmart, in the top position and Berkshire Hathaway in second place. The world’s largest family businesses generate a combined USD 7.28 trillion in revenue and employ some 24 million people. Revenues averaged USD 14.57 billion. The top 500 family businesses posted an average decline in revenue of 2.5% compared with the 2019 index – mainly because of the global coronavirus pandemic and its serious consequences. By contrast, the number of people employed has largely remained the same. 

About the study 

The Global Family Business Index is published this year for the fourth time by EY and St. Gallen. The index lists the world’s 500 companies with the greatest revenues that have been led by one family for at least two generations. A family business is defined as a company where the family or a foundation established by the family owns more than 50 percent of the shares and voting rights. Exchange-listed companies were considered to be family businesses if the family holds at least 32% of the shares and voting rights. For this reason, the index also includes large corporations in which families have holdings.

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EY’s organization is represented in Switzerland by Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, with ten offices across Switzerland, and in Liechtenstein by Ernst & Young AG, Vaduz. In this publication, “EY” and “we” refer to Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited.