A look at transcripts from this season’s conference calls with the top 30 U.S. companies finds their CEOs talking most about one of their peers: Amazon.

Share story

What company do corporate chiefs talk about the most when they’re trying to explain to investors why their businesses are doing well or poorly, and where the threat or opportunity comes from?

Of the 30 U.S. companies with the highest annual revenue, the answer, hands down, is Amazon.com.

During the peak of earnings season — a time when executives discuss the state of their companies with Wall Street analysts in often lengthy conference calls — the Seattle tech and retail giant’s name came up more than any other in transcripts collected by S&P Global Market Intelligence, a financial-information service

Amazon, which ranked 29th in last year’s Fortune 500 list, was mentioned in 92 different conference calls in the two weeks preceding May 4. That’s far ahead of any other top-30 company in the Fortune 500, including household names such as list leader Wal-Mart 43 calls) and Ford Motor (33 calls).

General Electric, the company Jack Welch turned into a paragon of modern business? It turned up in 14 calls, including one for its own shareholders meeting.

Apple, after taking out mentions for actual apples and apple-to-apple comparisons, came in second after Amazon, appearing in 79 calls.

Only Google (which is lower in Fortune’s revenue-based list) showed up in more earnings calls than Amazon: 94 in all, after taking out references by JP Morgan and Hugo Boss executives to “Googling” stuff on the Web.

Other tech firms that were outside the top 30 in revenue — Microsoft and Facebook, were also popular.

The lesson? Tech is becoming such a critical part of day-to-day life that its corporate titans are seen by almost everybody as partners, rivals or examples worthy of emulation — sometimes all three.

For no company is that truer than for Amazon, which has its fingers in seemingly every pie, from cloud computing to retail, from entertainment to logistics and transportation (it not only has bought a fleet of trucks, but it is leasing its own cargo air force).

The company, despite criticism for what some employees say is a dog-eat-dog corporate culture, is riding a high after reporting surprisingly good first-quarter profit and revenue. Its stock is near its all-time high, putting it among the rare companies worth more than $300 billion.

Even Warren Buffett, seen by many as the elder statesman of American capitalism, had plenty to say — mostly praise — about Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos at Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder meeting on April 30.

The billionaire was asked by an analyst how the shift from catalogs to online search, a phenomenon driven partly by Amazon, is affecting his conglomerate’s wide-ranging business interests.

“What they’ve accomplished in a fairly short period of time and continued to accomplish is remarkable, the number of satisfied customers they have developed,” Buffett said, according to a transcript. “We don’t look at that as something where we’re going to try to beat them at their own game. They’re better than we at that. And so Charlie (Munger, Buffett’s right-hand man) and I are not going to out-Bezos Bezos by a longshot.”