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Microsoft again came second only to General Electric as the world's most respected company among chief executives. Bill Gates is considered the world's most respected business leader, for the third year, among business leaders surveyed in the latest edition of the Financial Times/PricewaterhouseCoopers World's Most Respected Companies study.

IT and consumer electronics companies feature heavily in the list with 11 entries in the top 50 most admired corporations. HP made major strides up the "most respected" table, up 19 places to number 10. Meanwhile Carly Fiorina was the only woman to make the list, slotting in at number eight behind Gates and Michael Dell (number five). Fiorina is credited for successfully integrating Compaq into HP.

Microsoft's command of the IT market was respected by many of the 915 chief execs in 25 countries quizzed as part of the survey. "They [Microsoft] are so dominant and successful," one awe struck respondent said. The tactics that allowed Microsoft to dominate the software industry might be criticised elsewhere but not by business leaders, some of whom openly declared their admiration for Microsoft's "monopoly" status. Apart from HP and Microsoft other IT companies to make the list included: IBM (4), Dell (6), Sony Ericsson (21), Siemens (23), Canon (25), Nokia (26), Intel (38), Samsung (32) and Apple (42).

For the first time since 2001, US-based multinationals, whose reputations were tarnished by the corporate scandals in 2001/2, are climbing back up the rankings. Nine of the top ten companies on the list are US-based. Germany got six companies on the list of 50 most respected corporate stars. Japanese companies made it onto the honour list five times, while the UK scored three mentions (or five if you include Anglo Dutch corporates Unilever and Shell).

The meek won't inherit the boardroom

This year, for the first time, CEOs were asked to choose "fantasy" board members. Among the leading contenders were Winston Churchill, Jesus Christ, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, Julius Caesar, Leonardo Da Vinci and John F. Kennedy. These notables made it onto the list because of qualities such as "vision, innovation, leadership, charisma and pioneering genius". Oddly Gates (2nd) outscored Jesus Christ (5th) as the person most requested on a firm's financial board behind top choice former GE chairman Jack Welch. We'll leave it to theologians and economists to define any deeper meaning (if any) in that one.

Chief execs and fund managers were also asked to identify the most innovative companies. Both groups voted Microsoft number one. Dell, Nokia, Apple, Sony Ericsson, General Electric and IBM rated in the top 10 for innovation among both groups. ®

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