Global Investment Trends Monitor, No. 41

Digital Multinational enterprises (MNEs) are growing at breakneck speed.

The top 100 MNEs are changing the nature of cross-border investment. Their international production footprint, which was already expanding, grew even faster during the pandemic.


  • Multinational enterprises (MNEs) in the digital economy are transforming international trade and investment. UNCTAD's new ranking of the top 100 digital MNEs, which updates the first edition published in WIR2017, shows the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the performance and global asset footprint of the largest MNEs.
  • Total sales of the top 100 were almost 160% higher in 2021 than in 2016, an average increase of 21% per year. Net income increased by 23% per year with a significant growth spike of +60% between 2020 and 2021. This compares with an essentially flat trend for the traditional top 100 MNEs, excluding those in the technology sector.
  • The digital top 100 is very dynamic. While the ranking of the traditional top 100 is relatively stable with 3-4 new MNEs every year, the digital top 100 shows significant change. Over the 5-year period, as many as 39 new companies joined the ranking replacing others that were acquired or outranked. The number of internet platforms on the list increased from 11 to 15, with 9 new entrants. In the digital solutions segment, the number of MNEs increased from 26 to 34, and in the e-commerce segment from 18 to 21.
  • The digital top 100 remains highly concentrated geographically. Although several of the new firms in the ranking have their headquarters in developing countries, the list is still dominated by companies from developed economies, mostly from the United States (59) and Europe (22). A few digital MNEs from South-East Asia and Latin America are gaining global relevance.