Sector by Sector

The essence of Britain's Most Admired Companies is peer review, for the gold standard of analysis is as applicable in business as it is in academe. Here we take an in-depth look at the highs and lows of the 22 industry sectors covered, listing the five top-scoring companies in each.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

BANKING 1 HBOS 65.1 2 Royal Bank of Scotland 63.3 3 HSBC 62.7 4 Northern Rock 56.8 5 Barclays 56.0

HBOS takes the laurels in a sector awash with record returns. Interim profits are up to a generous £2.3bn, a sign that the four-year-old merger of Halifax with Bank of Scotland is starting to motor. With CEO James Crosby expected to step aside in favour of 38-year-old Andy Hornby (now COO) next year, City expectations can only rise. Fred 'The Shred' Goodwin's expansion of RBS into new markets continues apace, with the acquisition of a 5% stake in Bank of China for £900m in August. Despite its mammoth £6bn surplus - and the news of Prince William's work experience there - HSBC drops off the top spot for the first time in five years. Fourth-placed Northern Rock may be a minnow in this list, but it's grabbing an ever bigger share of the lucrative mortgage market.

BUILDING MATERIALS & MERCHANTS 1 Wolseley 63.3 2 Pilkington 61.5 3 BPB Industries 60.8 4 Marshalls 60.8 5 Aggregate Industries* 56.0

Another bumper year for Wolseley, which shifts plumbing supplies effectively on both sides of the Atlantic. Annual profits are up 20% to £648m and it's the firm's ninth year of record results, a fitting swansong for chief exec Charlie Banks, who retires in August. Long-standing rumours of a bid for flat-glass specialist Pilkington were realised last month with a £2bn offer from Nippon Sheet Glass of Japan. Another foreign bid came with St-Gobain's £3.7bn offer for BPB, the world's biggest plasterboard maker. The French advance is resisted and may be delayed by an EC inquiry.

Paving the nation's gardens and driveways helped Marshalls to a 97.7% growth in interim pre-tax profits. Aggregate Industries was bought this year by Swiss cement firm Holcim for £2.4bn.

CHEMICALS 1 Johnson Matthey 65.0 2 BOC 59.4 3 Victrex 51.0 4 Croda International 50.5 5 ICI 50.0

A world leader in supplying catalytic converters for cars and commercial vehicles, Johnson Matthey looks set to clean up in the coming years, thanks to new pollution regs in Europe and the US. The company predicts that legislation requiring all new trucks to be fitted with a cat will bring it an extra $200m in global sales by '08. Industrial gases group BOC continues to be linked with several potential suitors, including German rivals Linde and BASF, although wedding bells are not ringing yet. Victrex has only one product, a high-performance plastic called PEEK, but applications in everything from fuel cells to food processing and medicine secure the firm a respectable third place. ICI makes a welcome return to the sector top five, with third-quarter profits up 8% to £133m.

CONSTRUCTION 1 Balfour Beatty 63.3 2 Persimmon 59.5 3 Barratt Developments 59.3 4 Taylor Woodrow 58.5 5 George Wimpey 57.7

Balfour Beatty puts in a class-winning performance despite fallout from its involvement in the Hatfield rail crash, rising from 10th (and last) place in this sector in '04. But in an industry where the property slowdown is beginning to bite, BB's order books - stuffed with a record £7.4bn of business - and a 14% rise in half-year profits provide justification for this reversal of fortune. The fact that the rest of our top five are all housebuilders shows, however, that the housing market shouldn't be written off just yet, and the construction business remains hugely confident with '05's second-highest total sector score. Back in - at number three - this year is Barratt, thanks to more than 12 years of consecutive profits and a recent move upmarket into multimillion-pound executive homes.

CONSUMER PRODUCTS 1 Diageo 66.1 2 SABMiller 62.3 3 Allied Domecq* 56.8 4 Scottish & Newcastle 54.9 5 British American Tobacco 53.7

Diageo boss Paul Walsh can pour himself another large one, as the Guinness-to-Tanqueray booze behemoth bests rivals for the second year running. Despite a small drop in profits last year, Walsh remains upbeat, paying £200m to bag the famous Bushmills Irish Whiskey distillery and forecasting rising demand for his firm's Smirnoff Ice brand. Fast-growing brewing multinational SABMiller is well-placed after beating rival Heineken to the £4.45bn acquisition of South American brewer Colombia. Allied Domecq's creditable third-in-sector marks its last BMAC appearance as an independent entity - it was taken over by French rival Pernod Ricard for £7bn earlier this year. Fourth-placed Scottish & Newcastle - now big in the Russian market - is seen in the City as a likely bid target.

ENGINEERING, AERO & DEFENCE 1 Rolls-Royce 61.6 2 Cobham 59.8 3 Ultra Electronics 56.9 4 GKN 56.7 5 BAE Systems 55.3

An order book stuffed with a huge £22bn of business helps Rolls-Royce to a deserved first-in-sector again this year. New airliners from both Boeing (the 7E7) and Airbus (A380 super jumbo) should guarantee healthy demand for its state-of-the-art Trent aero engines for years. A strategic review at Cobham led to the sale of its fluid and air division companies to the US Eaton Corp for £150m in September. First-half earnings for the avionics and in-flight refuelling firm pushed revenues up 12% to £516m.

In October, aerospace and maritime technology business Ultra won a £14m contract to supply cockpit controls for the RAF's Eurofighter Typhoon.

BAE Systems - Europe's biggest defence contractor - makes it into the top five this year, scoring five points more than in '04.

ENGINEERING & MACHINERY 1 IMI 64.1 2 Rotork 63.2 3 Tomkins 63.0 4 Kidde* 62.4 5 Halma 62.4

IMI's four-year-old root-and-branch restructure under CEO Martin Lamb continues to pay dividends, with the disposal of the group's Polypipe arm, sold to US VC Castle Harlen in September for £293m. Lamb's war chest for acquisitions in Asia and the US now stands at £400m. Strong demand from the oil industry for its electric valve actuators helped Rotork to half-year profits of £16.2m (up £2.3m) and an impressive return-on-capital-invested of 43%. Components group Tomkins makes a respectable third-in-sector, despite having ailing car giant GM as its biggest customer. CEO Jim Nicol cut costs so effectively that half-year profits rose slightly to £140m. Veteran fire protection outfit Kidde went overseas, bought for £1.44bn by New York-listed UTC early in the year.

FOOD PRODUCERS & PROCESSORS 1 Cadbury Schweppes 70.7 2 Unilever 68.5 3 Tate & Lyle 59.7 4 Associated British Foods 56.0 5 Geest 51.1

Cadbury Schweppes, overall winner last year, retains its sector lead comfortably and also picks up the BMAC award for Quality of Management. CEO Todd Stitzer continues to make waves, not least with the £1.1bn auction of Cadbury's European beverage arm. Fuelled by organic growth, the firm's shares have risen 30% over the year, but higher commodity prices and the bankruptcy of a US bottling plant have hit full-year profit targets. Unilever, though second-placed in its sector, wins BMAC's Ability to Attract, Develop & Retain Top Talent award. The Anglo-Dutch conglomerate's fortunes have improved (third-quarter results showed a 3.5% growth in underlying sales) - reflecting its new management structure and splitting of the chairman/CEO roles.

HEALTH & HOUSEHOLD 1 AstraZeneca 57.6 2 Reckitt Benckiser 57.3 3 GlaxoSmithKline 57.0 4 Smith & Nephew 56.0 5 Alliance UniChem 52.6

AstraZeneca has elbowed GSK off the top spot, having achieved a turnaround over recent months, fuelled partly by sales of its cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor. Investors liked the record-breaking first-half profits, despite a challenge to its best-selling heartburn drug Nexium by a generic drug firm. CEO Sir Tom McKillop hands over this month to David Brennan. Cillit Bang maker Reckitt Benckiser is a steady second, having pulled off the £1.9bn acquisition of Boots Healthcare International.

GSK slips to third, but if the threat of bird flu continues, the pharmacist's anti-viral treatment Relenza could boom, offsetting the manufacturing disruptions GSK has faced this year. Biggest news for the sector has been Alliance UniChem's £7bn proposed merger with Boots.

LEISURE & HOTELS 1 Carnival 64.7 2 First Choice 57.8 3 Hilton Group 56.6 4 De Vere 55.6 5 InterContinental Hotels 54.5

Carnival, the cruise operator sold by P&O in 2003, remains at the head of a thriving sector. Despite environmental disasters and rising energy prices, there is no shortage of takers for a life (or at least a holiday) on the ocean wave. Carnival's business has been so good that rising ticket prices and onboard revenues grew third-quarter sales by 11% to $3.6bn. First Choice is second choice this year, entering the top five after a strong summer performance in which interim losses were cut and its dividend lifted. Brits seem unwilling to forgo their holidays, and First Choice has proved that it can keep up with changing tastes.

Up two sector places this year, Hilton Group is in talks to sell its hotels business back to Hilton Hotels Corp - which owns the hotel brand in the US - for £3.6bn.

LIFE ASSURANCE & INSURANCE 1 Legal & General Group 60.4 2 Aviva 58.6 3 St James's Place Capital 56.4 4 Friends Provident 54.4 5 Admiral 52.8

Legal & General is top dog again, having lifted its score by more than four points. Its annualised third-quarter sales increased by a third to £327m, while it took £3.3bn of new fund management business. After 14 years in the hot seat, chief exec Sir David Prosser leaves the company on a high note. Aviva is up one place in its sector, replacing Old Mutual, which drops down to seventh. Britain's biggest general insurer has reaped the rewards of its £1.1bn RAC purchase, the cost-savings and profits from which it forecasts to exceed expectations.

St James's Place Capital, wealth manager to the rich, leaps into the top five, having achieved sales of £59.6m during its second-quarter; its success was buoyed by a rush on pension products ahead of next year's new tax rules.

MEDIA 1 BSkyB 66.8 2 WPP Group 61.3 3 Emap 56.8 4 Reed Elsevier 55.9 5 Daily Mail & General Trust 54.6

A great year for BSkyB, which pips last year's sector winner WPP to the post, and picks up the gong for Quality of Marketing to boot. Murdoch Jnr has certainly made his mark, most recently with the £211m purchase of Easynet - the group's first foray into the internet arena. Since '03, Murdoch has increased profits after tax from £184m to £425m, and picked up the rights to English Test cricket. Year-on-year pre-tax profits rose 13.6% to £200m for the second quarter. Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP Group reported net new billings for the first nine months of the year up 45% year-on-year at $4.6bn. Emap, the magazines-to-exhibitions firm, has had a busy year, swallowing up Scottish Radio Holdings for £391m and internet news and trend business Worth Global Style Network for £140m.

OIL, GAS & EXTRACTIVE 1 BP 71.0 2 BG Group 64.2 3 BHP Billiton 64.0 4 Rio Tinto 61.8 5 Royal Dutch Shell* 61.4

BP - second only to Tesco overall - is also sector leader, and is in the top five in more than half of our nine criteria. BP has announced a rise of 16% in third-quarter profits, despite the impact of hurricanes Rita and Katrina. The group will also benefit from the £6.2bn sale of its Innovene division. Still, BP has had to contend with the collapse of its £560m Thunder Horse platform in the Gulf of Mexico, and a £400m charge for the explosion at its Texas City refinery. BG Group, up 25 places to 14th overall, achieved a 44% rise in third-quarter pre-tax profits to £308m, helped by rising gas prices. It plans a £1bn share buy-back and a further £500m investment in exploration and production. The world's largest mining group, BHP Billiton, has profited from strong demand from China.

PROPERTY 1 British Land 57.9 2 Land Securities 57.0 3 Pillar Property* 55.9 4 Quintain Estates 55.7 5 Hammerson 54.9

It's been a case of 'out with the old, in with the new' at British Land. COO John Weston Smith, with the firm for 35 years, steps down next year, and chairman John Ritblat may retire soon. New CEO Stephen Hester joined last year after Ritblat split his CEO and chairman roles, and the company's move towards quarterly reporting has met shareholder demands for better corporate governance. British Land has concluded its acquisition of Pillar Property for £811m. Its fund management business is set to sell CityPoint, London's third-tallest skyscraper, for more than £500m. Land Securities, Britain's largest listed property firm, nudges up one place, having concluded a spate of deals such as the £360m purchase of LXB Properties and the acquisition of Tops Estates for £517m.

RESTAURANTS, PUBS & BREWERIES 1 Mitchells & Butlers 65.4 2 Punch Taverns 62.8 3 Greene King 62.1 4 Enterprise Inns 60.9 5 Wolverhampton & Dudley 59.6

Mitchells & Butlers, owner of the All Bar One and Harvester chains, has knocked Greene King off the top spot. Its strategic shift towards informal dining has proved a success. Like-for-like sales growth reached 4.7% for the year to September, but M&B is still vulnerable to slowing consumer confidence and rising energy and regulatory costs. It's also set to profit from the extension of licensing hours next year. Punch is in an acquisitory frame of mind, having bought Avebury for £219m in July, boosting its estate by 409 pubs. It has other deals on the horizon. Real-ale specialist Greene King bought Scotland's largest independent brewer Belhaven for £187m, and continues to reap the rewards of its '04 takeover of the Laurel pubs, which has boosted sales by 33%.

RETAILERS, FOOD & PERSONAL 1 Tesco 71.9 2 Burberry 64.2 3 Next 60.9 4 J Sainsbury 57.7 5 Boots 54.5

Overall winner Tesco flexed its muscles in this sector and scooped top prizes for Use of Corporate Assets and Capacity to Innovate. Pre-tax profits for the first half-year were up 18.7% to £908m, boosted by non-food sales and its online presence. Burberry's new CEO Angela Ahrendt joins in July, charged with removing unflattering chav associations and aligning UK sales with good overseas figures. John Barton will inherit an ambitious store-opening plan when he becomes Next's chairman in May.

J Sainsbury posted three consecutive quarters of sales growth, its best performance since '02. And it has been a significant year for Boots. Takeover by Alliance Unichem makes this its last BMAC appearance as an independent British company.

RETAILERS, GENERAL 1 Carphone Warehouse 58.9 2 GUS 57.6 3 Kingfisher 54.3 4 Halfords 49.6 5 HMV 49.5

Retail conditions may be grim, but Carphone Warehouse is prospering. The popularity of mobiles has kept it happy in the high street, while its landline business TalkTalk is flourishing. Pre-tax profits rose 36% on last year. A new French mobile venture with Virgin shows Charles Dunstone has his foot on the gas. Acquisitions, including the $330m purchase of LowerMy-Bills.com, helped Experian to a 29% growth in sales - compensating GUS for poor performances by Homebase and Argos. Mixed fortunes, too, for Kingfisher, a market leader in France, Poland, Italy, China and Taiwan, but struggling with its B&Q subsidiary at home. Sales of sat-nav systems shielded Halfords from the slowdown, while HMV's download launch brought good news amid the Ottakar's bid trauma.

SPECIALITY & OTHER FINANCE 1 Man Group 64.4 2 3i 57.2 3 Icap 54.3 4 Schroders 54.0 5 Close Brothers 53.0

Sector winner Man had to contend with harsh conditions for hedge funds as well as US fraud investigations. But a strong performance internationally helped it to pre-tax profits of $784m in March. A sharper 3i has turned in its best results since the dot.com bubble. In the five months to the end of August, it was bringing in £2m a day, having cashed in stakes in Travelex and Yellow Brick Road. Icap benefited from high market volatility after hurricane Katrina and the London bombings - pre-tax profit predictions for the year were £197m. Schroders enjoys strong growth, with half-year profits to June up 70% at £123.5m. At Close Brothers, asset management is the key to sweet figures; full-year profits in the division jumped 82.5% to £31.8m.

SUPPORT SERVICES 1 Serco Group 66.1 2 Capita Group 63.1 3 Bunzl 59.1 4 Hays 53.4 5 Brambles Industries 50.5

Serco's order book totalled a record £12.9bn on 30 June, helping it to retain the top slot. It won a £30m five-year contract to monitor prisoners in Scotland, and its acquisitions are performing well, driving its American expansion. Keeping tabs on London's congestion charge has been problematic for Capita, but it still posted pre-tax profits up 18% to £74.5m for the six months to the end of June. In the same month, new CEO Michael Roney arrived at Bunzl to find a streamlined company focused on outsourcing, having demerged its cigarette-filter manufacturer Filtrona.

Recruitment specialist Hays reported a 30% rise in pre-tax profits to £191.5m, boosted by high demand at home for construction staff. Brambles, continuing its turnaround, posted impressive profits.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS 1 Vodafone 66.0 2 02 61.2 3 BT Group 55.6 4 Virgin Mobile 49.4 5 Thus 43.4

The sector winner Vodafone heeds its own advice to'Make the most of now'. In October, it bought a 10% stake in Bharti Tele-Ventures, a foothold in India's 66 million-strong mobile market. The firm's mobile TV offering with BSkyB might just be the 3G carrot the British public need. O2 shares outperformed the FTSE 100 by nearly 25% this year, provoking a £17.7bn takeover bid from Spanish rival Telefonica. Continued watchdog pressure led BT to cut wholesale prices and offer concessions to fixed-line rivals, but it still recorded a 43% rise in broadband and mobile revenues. Virgin has introduced contract services and announced plans to move into France with Carphone Warehouse. Thus is ever hungry for acquisitions.

TRANSPORT 1 British Airways 59.3 2 BAA 57.6 3 Exel* 52.2 4 BBA 52.0 5 P&O 50.8

British Airways takes top spot in a challenging year. Record passenger numbers helped it to its best first-quarter results for eight years - then came strikes, the London bombings and soaring fuel bills. New CEO Willie Walsh will, though, be preoccupied with the move to Terminal 5. Last year's winner, BAA, will shed 700 jobs to cut costs, but posted a 9.6% rise in operating profits to £412m for the six months to 30 September.

Exel's purchase last year of Tibbett & Britten paid off; Exel itself was sold to Deutsche Post this year for £3.5bn, and CEO John Allan could make £4m from the deal. Aviation services firm BBA purchased bases in Le Bourget, France, and Cape Town, and reported first-half revenues up 10% to £417m.

P&O was subject to a £3bn bid from Dubai Ports World.

UTILITIES 1 Centrica 57.0 2 National Grid Transco* 55.9 3 Severn Trent 53.7 4 United Utilities 52.9 5 Kelda 50.9

Speculation surrounded a possible sale of OneTel as Centrica moved to enhance its upstream gas business. A £318.6m investment in Kerr McGee's North Sea gas fields was a start, but Sir Roy Gardner may look for a significant energy acquisition before he retires next year. National Grid Transco (now National Grid) plans to return £2bn to shareholders after offloading four gas distribution networks in June. In October, pre-tax profits of £330m were predicted for Severn Trent, propelled by its Biffa waste collection business and water bill increases, but Serious Fraud Office investigations cast a shadow. The outsourcing trend benefited United Utilities' unregulated activities. Kelda's performance was driven by core asset Yorkshire Water.

BRITAIN'S MOST ADMIRED LEADERS 2005: 1. Sir Terry Leahy Tesco 34.6% 2. Sir John Browne BP 21.8% 3 Sir Fred Goodwin RBS 4.6% Mercer Human Resource Consulting is the global leader for trusted HR and related financial advice, products and services, advising more than 70% of the FTSE-100 companies and over half of Britain's Most Admired Companies. Its goal is to help employers create measurable business results through their people. *merged, acquired or name changed.

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