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Judging by profit margins, the most powerful firms in the S&P500 are pharmaceuticals.
In their 2020 study, ‘Profitability of Large Pharmaceutical Companies Compared With Other Large Public Companies‘ (JAMA 323, 9, March 3, pp. 834-843), Ledley et al. show that, during the period 2000-2018, the top 35 pharmaceutical firms in the S&P500 outperform virtually every other group (with a possible exception of “technology”).
They had higher gross profit margins, higher EBITDA margins and higher net margins. They also did better than non-pharmaceutical health care firms.
This is one of their charts:
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