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France outstrips Britain, Germany in Fortune 500 big companies list

Total headquarters in La Défense, Paris
Total headquarters in La Défense, Paris Reuters/Charles Platiau

France outstripped both Germany and the UK in the annual Fortune 500 list of the world's largest companies this year. Top of the list was the US but China is catching up fast.

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With 31 companies cited by the US magazine, France comes ahead of the UK, with 29, and Germany, with 28.

Despite the country's failure to reach the one per cent growth rate economists say is necessary to make a dent in unemployment, its big companies continue to thrive.

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They include internationally known firms like oil giant Total, insurance group Axa, banks BNP and Paribas and supermarket chain Carrefour.

France was neck and neck with Germany in the league table until 2011, when both countries had 32 companies listed, but has overtaken it since.

Germany is stronger than France in medium-sized enterprises, however, according to economists.

The US kept its place at the top of the list this year with 128 of the 500.

But China is catching up.

This year 106 companies made the grade, a sharp rise on the 73 in 2011, and there were three Chinese companies in the top 10, the highest number for any country in the world.

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