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Johnson & Johnson atop Barron's best cos list, GE slips

Healthcare and consumer giant Johnson & Johnson sits atop an annual list of global corporations held in highest esteem for the second year in a row, while General Electric Co has slipped well below the top five spot it held in past years.

The list, in its fifth year, is compiled by weekly financial newspaper Barron's, based on money managers view of the world's 100-largest corporations.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ranked second after J&J, followed by Procter & Gamble, Apple and Wal-Mart Stores.

GE, No. 1 on the weekly business newspaper's 2005 list, No. 2 in 2006, and 5th in 2007, now ranks far lower - 43rd on the list of most respected global corporation.

Financial firms also lost ground in this year's list.

Barron's, which published the list in its February 16 edition, said GE's reputation as an earnings machine had grown tarnished, after missing expectations last year.

“To regain investors' respect, not to mention its own financial health, GE ought to cut its dividend and shrink GE Capital in a managed way,” Barron's quoted one money manager as saying.

While GE flopped, fast-food chain McDonald's redeemed itself. Knocked off last year's list, McDonald's Corp reappeared in 7th place.

One commentator cited by Barron's praised maker of the Big Mac and Happy Meals for being a company that is “always thinking ahead.”

Google, in sixth place last year, fell to No. 26, which was pinpointed on the Internet search engine's stock price having fallen by about a third in the past year.

For 2009, money managers said the firms that won the greatest respect were those with, in this order, strong management, sound business strategy, a competitive edge, ethical business practices and revenue and profit growth.

Given the increasing mistrust for financial firms, after heavy losses, respect for financial firms largely slipped. Bank of America was ranked No. 98, down from 82 a year ago, and UK-based HSBC Holdings PLC fell to No. 63 from 48th place last year. (Reuters)