..love cards...

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tiGers make a splash ```

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phOtOs ```

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Rank: 11 (Previous rank: 13)
CEO: Warren E. Buffett
Compare toolBerkshire Hathaway vs. Top 10
If Warren Buffett has lost a step, it didn't show in 2009. Berkshire rolled up its gaudiest net-worth gain ever and arranged its biggest deal, a $26 billion purchase of railroad Burlington Northern that was completed in 2010. The company also announced a stock split that brings Berkshire ownership within reach for those reluctant to plunk down thousands of dollars for a single share.
Skeptics complain Buffett has drifted from his value-seeking discipline, but the stock is up 23% this year. Maybe that's why fans spend so much time debating who might eventually fill his rather large shoes. --Colin Barr

12. Citigroup

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Rank: 12 (Previous rank: 12)
CEO: Vikram S. Pandit
Compare tool: Citigroup vs. Top 10
The sickest of the major banks is finally getting healthier. In 2009, Citigroup split itself in two -- a good bank and a bad bank -- in its effort to sell off more than $500 billion in toxic assets. After passing a government stress test, Citi officially paid back TARP funds to the U.S. Government in 2009.
Still, a $25 billion bounce from last year's losses couldn't move Citi into the black. It lost $1.6 billion during the year because of consumer credit losses and costs to repay TARP. --S.C.

13. Verizon Communications

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Rank: 13 (Previous rank: 17)
CEO: Ivan G. Seidenberg
Compare tool: Verizon Communications vs. Top 10
Like chief rival, AT&T, Verizon also missed this year's stock market rally. In the year period ending April 1, Verizon's stock was down almost 4% while the S&P 500 rose 41%. In the same period, Verizon partner Motorola came back from the dead with Droid and was up 52%.
Not even the chorus of rumors saying Verizon will get an iPhone has helped. For all the nifty devices Verizon is stocking, what it can't buy is growth. Analysts project an average annual earnings growth rate of just 5% over the next few years. That's nothing to phone home about. --M.C.

14. McKesson

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Rank: 14 (Previous rank: 15)
CEO: John H. Hammergren
Compare tool: McKesson vs. Top 10
In March, McKesson finally washed its hands of a decade-old accounting scandal when former CEO Charles McCall was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Maybe that will help people refocus on the company's impressive fundamentals.
With revenues of more than $100 billion, McKesson generates far more top line than its cooler corporate neighbors in Silicon Valley. The company's strong performance during the recession recently prompted Standard & Poor's to upgrade the company's rating.
Best known as the nation's largest distributor of pharmaceuticals -- the company processes some 4.5 million items a day -- McKesson is making inroads on others fronts, digitizing patient records and developing after-hours prescription machines. --P.N.

15. General Motors

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Rank: 15 (Previous rank: 6)
CEO: Edward E. Whitacre Jr.
Compare tool: General Motors vs. Top 10
2009 was a tornado for the 101-year-old automaker. There were three CEOs, four divested car brands, and a bankruptcy reorganization that left American taxpayers as its largest shareholders. Don't forget 2,300 eliminated dealers, 10 closed plants, and 21,000 layoffs.
The world's second-largest automaker is now run by CEO Ed Whitacre and CFO Christopher P. Liddell, neither of whom have previous auto experience. Liddell says GM has a “reasonable chance” of making a profit in 2010, expects to pay back the remaining $5.6 billion in government loans by June, and plans a public stockoffering “as soon as it makes sense.” --Alex Taylor III

16. American International Group

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Get Quote: AIG
Financials: Latest Results
Rank: 16 (Previous rank: 245)
CEO: Robert Benmosche
Compare tool: American International Group vs. Top 10
The good news: AIG chief Robert Benmosche is making good on his promise to repay $180 billion in government bailout money. The company sold two insurance operations earlier this year for $50 billion, most of which will go to repaying its debt to the government.
The bad news: AIG lost $11 billion last year. Then there's the company's ugly balance sheet -- $140 billion in debt, $150 billion worth of credit default swaps -- its numerous legal entanglements, government investigations, and inability to hold onto key executives. It all makes AIG stock, which has gyrated wildly in the past year, better to ogle that own. --P.N.

17. Cardinal Health

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Rank: 17 (Previous rank: 18)
CEO: George S. Barrett
Compare tool: Cardinal Health vs. Top 10
Even a company with ultra-slim margins can churn out a billion-dollar profit -- if it sells nearly $1 billion worth of stuff, that is.
Drug distributor Cardinal Health simplified itself in 2009 by spinning off its higher-end clinical and medical products group, now CareFusion. As a result, the company boosted its stock price and narrowed its focus. It also has a new CEO, drug-industry veteran George Barrett, who helped Cardinal move beyond embarrassingearnings re-statements in past years. --Adam Lashinsky

18. CVS Caremark

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Rank: 18 (Previous rank: 19)
CEO: Thomas M. Ryan
Compare tool: CVS Caremark vs. Top 10
If you picked up a prescription last year, chances are you interacted with at least one of the two sides of CVS Caremark, the drugstore chain cum pharmacy benefits manager (PBM).
The company's retail side operates 7,000 stores, and its PBM handled 660 million prescriptions in 2009. CVS Caremark increased sales and profits last year -- but its growth, while steady, wasn't uniform. Caremark has struggled since the 2007 merger, losing $4.8 billion worth of 2010 contracts last year.
Investors will be watching to see whether the PBM's new president, Per Lofberg, can execute a turnaround -- and whether investigations by the FTC and a multistate task force cause trouble for the health-care giant. --Mina Kimes

19. Wells Fargo

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Rank: 19 (Previous rank: 41)
CEO: John G. Stumpf
Compare tool: Wells Fargo vs. Top 10
Wells Fargo sold more mortgages than any other bank in 2009. As consumers reacted to record-low interest rates, earnings rose more than four-fold as sales doubled. The bank posted a profit in all four quarters.
But analysts were most excited about Wells Fargo's purchase of Wachovia. The deal was expected to burden Wells with a huge portfolio of shaky adjustable-rate mortgages, but Wachovia proved to be a shrewd pickup. Wells Fargo gained 15 million customers, and after writing down Wachovia's bad loans, merger costs will be a third less than expected.--S.C.

20. International Business Machines

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Rank: 20 (Previous rank: 14)
CEO: Samuel J. Palmisano
Compare tool: International Business Machines vs. Top 10
Sales at Big Blue were down – as was its Fortune 500 ranking – but that doesn't mean it was an entirely bad year. Earnings and cash flow were stronger than ever despite the recession, thanks to a continued focus on selling high-margin software and services that are designed to help businesses save money and find customers.
Another sign of a solid 2009: Two of the most powerful enterprise technology companies in Silicon Valley, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, regularly singled out IBM as a chief rival. Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but vilification is a close second. --Jon Fortt
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