What are the largest privately held companies in America? Several websites (Forbes, for example) attempt to identify these companies by looking at their total revenues. We’re guilty of this too (see 11 biggest private companies in the world). Total revenue is an OK metric if you don’t have anything else to use but businesses don’t exist to maximize revenue, they exist to maximize profits and ultimately the value of the company. We don’t consider a middleman company that spends $100 billion on commodities and sells them for $101 billion to be one of America’s largest privately held companies. Several of the “biggest” privately held companies on Forbes’ list were like this. They had $20 billion to $30 billion in sales but they were in low margin businesses and the total market value of these companies were less than $10 billion.
People generally presume private companies to be running on a small scale with miniscule profits. That is usually true but there are a lot of exceptions. Private equity firms usually snap up mid size public and private companies with the intention of returning them back to the public markets at a future date potentially at much higher valuations. There are also some family owned or controlled private businesses that may be valued at tens of billions of dollars. In this article, we will estimate market values of these private companies by using price-to-sales ratios of similar publicly traded companies. To do this, we used revenue estimates from Forbes and price-sales ratios from Yahoo Finance. We also included other privately held technology companies that don’t have large revenues to make Forbes’ list but valued in billions in financing rounds. Here are the 30 largest privately held companies in America ranked by market capitalizations:
30. Pilot Flying J
Total revenue: $32.1 billion
Ranking according to revenue: 7
Estimated Price-Sales Ratio: 0.25
Estimated Market Capitalization: $8 billion
After the merger back in 2010, Pilot Flying J became the largest privately held gas and convenience chain store in the country. The company boasts over 700 locations, which can be found in every single state in the country.