Reuters has certainly come a long way. Back in the 1850s, an innovative Paul Julius Reuter used pigeons to carry share price information between Brussels and Aachen. Today, his company's activities are a little more sophisticated. Reuters' profits have risen to just over £700 million on turnover of £2.7 billion. Of the latter, about 70% is derived from electronically delivered news, financial information and dealing services for businesses across the world.
In winning this year's Most Admired Companies survey, Reuters scored highly in every aspect of its performance. It also finished top of the news and publishers sector in six of the nine performance yardsticks and came second in the other three (its main sectoral rival was Reed International, the Anglo-Dutch publishing group with whom Reuters had tentative merger talks earlier this year. The quality of its products and services, and its value as a long-term investment was judged the strongest across all sectors of the economy.
Peter Job, Reuters chief executive, can take much of the credit. His low-profile management style and downbeat manner conceal a sharp eye for long-term business trends. He took over as chief executive of Reuters in 1991 and has presided over a period of rapid growth - in part because of 'his capacity to gaze unflinchingly at the problems in the business', according to chairman Sir Christopher Hogg.
Under the leadership of Job, the group isn't resting on its laurels.
Instinet, its electronic agency broker service that marries anonymous buyers and sellers of stocks, has grown on the back of the successful NASDAQ market over in the US. And Reuters is hoping for further success with its new '3000' range of information products, which combine the latest price information with historical data on equity, bonds and foreign exchange markets.
Reuters is also trying to turn into a major player among a new generation of Internet service providers. It has already dipped its toe in the water with Internet services aimed at the health, air cargo and insurance markets.
This comes in response to direct competition in its core fields and the fear that the financial services currently provided could in the future be undermined by publicly accessible Internet services.
It hasn't been unalloyed joy. Reuters disappointed shareholders in the market in July with a 3% fall in pre-tax profits to £333 million for the first six months of the year, although the strong pound is estimated to have cost it £50 million. And some shareholders are grumbling that tight taxation rules mean that only a relatively modest share buy-back using less than 20% of the group's £1 billion cash pile is possible. But these are the kinds of difficulties most companies dream of waking up to each day. Reuters is a worthy winner of our survey.