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5. Petrobras | Top 10 BRIC companies

Energy giant leading Brazil's economic surge.

Market capitalisation: $158.7 billion

Latin America's largest company was Brazil's sole oil producer until 1997, when its legal monopoly was removed. Nevertheless it remains an energy titan, the fourth biggest energy company in the world, and very much at the head of the Brazilian economic juggernaut.

As with many international megaliths, the company has it origins in the very heart of government. Then president Getulio Vargas was instrumental in the founding of Petrobras back in 1953, and the company remains partly owned by the Brazilian state.

Petrobras is a truly global organisation, with its tentacles spread over 27 different countries.

Brazil is the world's leading producer of ethanol, made from sugar cane, and Petrobras has been at the forefront of developing the fuel. In 2005 it signed an agreement with Nippon Alcohol Hanbai to produce ethanol for the Japanese market.

It also seems to be a good corporate citizen, with Transparency International naming it among the global companies with the highest levels of transparency in their operations. It also received the somewhat bizarre accolade of 'World's Most Sutainable Oil Company' from Spanish consultants Management and Excellence.

Huge oil and gas finds in the last five years have meant a significant hike in the share price, but some investors have expressed reservations over the company's failure to provide full details about some of the deposits. The giant Tupi field off the Brazilian coast, for example, is over 5 km below sea level and extracting oil may prove challenging.

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