Today in Apple history: Apple becomes the most valuable public company ever


By 2012, Apple was a giant.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

August 20: Today in Apple history: Apple becomes the most valuable public company ever August 20, 2012: Apple breaks records as it becomes the most valuable public company in human history.

When markets close, Apple’s market cap — the stock price multiplied by the number of outstanding shares — sits at an astonishing $623.5 billion. This beats the previous record of $618.9 billion set by Microsoft on December 30, 1999, at the height of the dot-com bubble.

Apple’s return to profit

Apple became profitable again soon after Steve Jobs returned as CEO in 1997. But the enormous valuation in 2012 reveals the iPhone’s astonishing impact on Apple’s business.

By comparison, in 2004 — with the success of iTunes, the iPod, the iMac G4 and other top products — Apple’s valuation lingered at less than $10 billion.

By 2009, as Apple prepped to introduce the third-generation iPhone 3GS, the company’s valuation had grown to $100 billion.

After that, the iPhone exploded in popularity — and Apple’s value skyrocketed. In 2012 alone, Apple surpassed the $400 billion, $500 billion and $600 billion valuation marks, as stock soared 64 percent.

The figures were doubly reassuring because these landmarks happened following the death of Jobs, who passed away at the end of the previous year. Some doomsayers suggested Apple’s value was so wrapped up in Jobs’ presence as CEO that, once he was no longer in the role, Apple would collapse.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

Apple stock: Breaking records all the way

After becoming the world’s most valuable public company of all time, Apple continued climbing — and breaking records along the way. In 2015, it became the world’s first $700 billion company. It edged past the $800 billion mark and then $900 billion. Last year, Apple finally achieved an astonishing figure as it passed the $1 trillion mark.

Not too shabby for a company that, in 1996, was hemorrhaging money back in the 1990s.