Not surprisingly, the top five most profitable companies this year -- led by the telecommunications behemoth Verizon -- are all giants in their industries.
They have another common thread, however. All five are based outside of Pittsburgh but were added to the listings because they have major operations here.
New York City-based Verizon topped the rankings by earning $10.2 billion in 2011, even though those profits were flat compared with the previous year.
Britain-based global pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline placed second with profits of $8.47 billion, followed closely by Europe's biggest engineering company, Munich, Germany-based Siemens AG with profits of $8.46 billion.
Rounding out the top five were Philadelphia's ubiquitous cable-TV provider, Comcast ($4.2 billion), and another pharmaceutical leader, Germany's Bayer AG ($3.2 billion), which has its North American headquarters in Robinson.
The highest ranking true Pittsburgh-based company was PNC Financial Services Group, placing sixth with profits of $3 billion last year, roughly the same as in 2010.
The banking powerhouse, the nation's seventh biggest bank based on assets, grew dramatically in size with the acquisition of Cleveland-based National City Corp. in 2008 and most recently with the purchase of Royal Bank of Canada's U.S. retail banking arm in the southeast.
PNC had enjoyed the top spot as the region's most profitable company in five of the last six years, before the companies based elsewhere joined the rankings to reflect the region's global economy.
Just four of the 50 companies with the highest profits in 2011 saw their earnings decline from the previous year: McKesson (-4.8 percent); Horsehead Holdings (-13.4 percent), Koppers (-16.3 percent) and Finmeccanica (-22.4 percent).
Three others, Verizon, PNC and Bank of New York Mellon reported profits essentially were flat.
Overall, the company with the biggest percentage gain in net income was the Bayer spinoff Lanxess AG, a maker of rubber and specialty chemicals. The German company, which has its U.S. operations headquartered in Findlay, saw net income surge 848 percent, although that was for 2010, the most recent available figures.
Coming in second was the Johnstown-based bank AmeriServ Financial, which posted a 410 percent jump in net income last year as loan losses fell.
Patricia Sabatini: email@example.com or 412-263-3066.