Most Admired: Sector by Sector

The top 5 companies in each of the 22 sectors


1 HSBC 66.3

2 Royal Bank of Scotland 64.7

3 Barclays 61.1

4 HBOS 60.3

5 Standard Chartered 55.8

Perennial high-achiever HSBC tops the sector for the fifth year running,with 2003 profits up 53% to £5.1bn, a European record, and 2004 interims up a further 41% year-on-year to £6.9bn. Its global influence continues to grow - August's £960m deal to buy about 20% of China's Bank of Communications is the biggest single foreign investment in a mainland Chinese bank to date. But in the UK a further 3,500 jobs are to be outsourced to Asia. Second-placed RBS may have lost out to Banco Santander in the Abbey bid, but CEO Fred 'The Shred' Goodwin's buying spree continues, the £5.7bn acquisition of Charter One taking RBS into the US banking's top 10. Emerging markets specialist Standard Chartered makes its inaugural appearance in MT's banking top five.


1 Wolseley 65.5

2 Marshalls 62.0

3 Travis Perkins 61.6

4 BPB 58.1

5 Pilkington 56.7

World-leading heating and plumbing supplier Wolseley is the sector's hottest property this year, its winning score taking it into the overall top 10 for the first time. Successful expansion in the US market and acquisitions pushed profits to a best-ever £559.1m. Last year's number one - Halifax-based concrete and stone products business Marshalls - blamed the wet summer for slow sales of paving stones. Travis Perkins CEO Frank McKay plans to open another 450 branches in the next six years, chasing a 20% UK market share. Plasterboard giant BPB announced a £250m international expansion programme in eastern Europe and Asia, and Pilkington blamed fuel prices and the strong pound for an £8m drop in profits in the six months to September.


1 Johnson Matthey 61.3

2 BOC 59.0

3 Victrex 54.1

4 Croda International 52.3

5 Yule Catto 50.0

A modest 3% rise in profits for catalytic converter and fuel-cell specialist Johnson Matthey was enough to keep it ahead of the pack in a hesitant sector, where the total score is down by 20 points this year. New chief exec Neil Carson completed his first acquisition in September, paying a modest £2m for Lancaster Synthesis. Q3 profits were up 13% for industrial gasses group BOC, but persistent rumours of a possible merger with German rival Linde were dismissed by CEO Tony Isaac. Victrex may have only one product, but applications in everything from aerospace to food processing ensured strong demand and earned it a good third place this year. Speciality chemicals outfit Croda dropped to fourth place, with half-year profits down 1.5% to £19.8m.


1 Berkeley Group 62.1

2 Persimmon 59.8

3 Wilson Bowden 58.8

4 G Wimpey 58.3

5 Bovis Homes 57.6

This top five - all housebuilders - are in buoyant mood and the sector's total score is up 16 points on 2003. No doubt John Prescott's plans for an extra 200,000 new homes in the south-east have helped offset concern that the property boom is stalling. Berkeley Group - refocusing as a specialist in urban regeneration projects - made £230m profit in the last financial year, up 4.1% on 2003, and shrugged off protests over boss Tony Pidgley's controversial incentive package. Boosted operating margins of 22.7% in the first half helped Persimmon to second place. Wilson Bowden has doubled in size over the past five years and a recent restructuring exercise resulted in chief exec Mike Stansfield taking on a new strategic remit and a new job - chairman.


1 Diageo 61.1

2 SABMiller 54.7

3 Allied Domecq 54.5

4 Scottish & Newcastle 51.7

5 Rank Group 50.3

Despite finding himself in a new sector this year, Diageo boss Paul Walsh can take his pick of celebratory tipples as the Tanqueray, Smirnoff and Guinness-making drinks group bested its competitors once again. The disposal of most of its $3.62bn stake in US food biz General Mills was a boost, and its measured contributions to the binge-drinking debate seem to have gone down well. SABMiller continues to grow, with an offer for South African rival ABI and an $82m investment in China. Allied Domecq's profits were up 6% to £521m, following a strong performance in the US. Double-digit growth in US sales of Newcastle Brown also helped fourth-placed S&N. Mecca Bingo and Hard Rock Cafe owner Rank Group is the only non-alcoholic entry in the top five.


1 Rolls-Royce 63.3

2 Cobham 60.6

3 Smiths Group 56.0

4 Meggitt 54.8

5 Ultra Electronics 53.8

In its centenary year, Rolls-Royce gains nearly 10 points on 2003's result to jump from fifth to first, thanks to solid results and new orders from ANA of Japan and China Eastern Airlines for its Trent aero-engines. The firm will also benefit from sales of the delayed Eurofighter, whose engines it will supply. Half-year profits at avionics specialist Cobham were up nearly £10m to £62.3m, but the Eurofighter delays meant that in September, 140 jobs had to go in its fuel systems division. Smiths Group has been on the acquisition trail, picking up US outfits DGT and Trak Communications earlier in the year and Integrated Aerospace in October. Improving conditions in the civil aviation market helped components business Meggitt to a 7% rise in orders in September.


1 IMI 66.6

2 Weir Group 64.0

3 Rotork 63.7

4 Kidde 63.2

5 Halma 63.0

The sprawling IMI group, which produces everything from valves to soft-drinks dispensers, has outperformed analysts' expectations, with turnover up 3% to £807m for the first six months of the year. It's in large part due to CEO Martin Lamb's transformation of the company, which has included job cuts, investment in new products and a manufacturing move to Asia. Meanwhile, Weir Group, maker of pumps and valves, has emerged from a lean period with improved profits and a 25% increase in its order book for the first half of 2004. Rotork looks similarly bullish, with an 18% increase in its order book and cash in the bank. Overall, confidence in this new sector is strong and it boasts the second-highest sector total this year.


1 Cadbury Schweppes 69.6

2 Unilever 69.4

3 Northern Foods 59.3

4 Tate & Lyle 58.8

5 Associated British Foods 56.1

Although Cadbury Schweppes is this year's top company, both in its sector and overall, everything is not rosy in this category. The sector score is up on last year's, yet companies such as Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman have felt the squeeze as retailers continue to cut costs. Sales at Unilever declined in the third quarter of 2004, and new co-chairman Patrick Cescau has announced plans to cut staff. New Northern Foods CEO Patricia O'Driscoll wasted no time in cutting 1,000 jobs, although she seems unwilling to go out of her way to please the big retailers. However, Cranswick (in 10th position), the specialist food company that also sells pets and pet food, has been boosted by rising sales of live clown fish following the success of the children's film Finding Nemo.


1 GlaxoSmithKline 64.3

2 Reckitt Benckiser 63.8

3 AstraZeneca 63.6

4 Smith & Nephew 61.3

5 Amersham 57.4

No surprises as GlaxoSmithKline remains in pole position. However, boss JP Garnier must see off the threat from generic drugs, sales of which have hit GSK brands Wellbutrin and Paxil. Turnover for the first nine months of 2004 was £15bn, down £1.1bn on the same period last year. Sales at Reckitt Benckiser, producer of Harpic, Vanish and Lyso, improved to £2.85bn for the first nine months of 2004. AstraZeneca failed to get marketing approval for new blood-thinning drug Exanta, so it's back to the R&D drawing board. It's possibly the last appearance for Galen Holdings (no. 7); it's being taken private and is currently the target of three rival bidders. Meanwhile, SSL (no. 10), maker of Dr Scholl sandals, is showing signs of improvement under new boss Garry Watts.


1 Carnival 62.4

2 Whitbread 58.2

3 De Vere Group 57.1

4 Manchester United 56.4

5 Hilton Group 55.0

The overall sector score has dropped, even though international travel continues to increase. But there are some strong performers, notably Carnival, which remains top of the sector following its merger with P&O Princess last year. Carnival is now the world's largest cruise company, and announced record profits of $1bn for the third quarter of 2004. Whitbread and De Vere each had improved results this year, and Whitbread announced a relocation of its headquarters from London to Luton. Life is rockier at Manchester United as Malcolm Glazer increases his stake. The Hilton Group enjoyed a boost when Ladbrokes' takings increased during the Olympics. A new entrant is CenterParcs (no.7) as middle-class families realise that a UK holiday resort can be fun.


1 Legal & General 56.0

2 Old Mutual 52.5

3 Aviva 50.6

4 Prudential 50.0

5 Jardine Lloyd Thompson 49.8

It has been another less than stellar year for insurance. Although the sector score has lifted slightly, at 460.7 it's still the lowest total this year. But the gloom may be lifting, with evidence that new business and profits are improving. Legal & General is top dog again, and reported first-half new business sales up 27% on the same period last year. Old Mutual's shares are trading at close to their year high, although it still needs to make a big UK acquisition - the London-listed company earns most of its income in South Africa and the US. Britannic Group (no. 10) has the second-lowest score of any company in this survey, reflecting the rocky year it had in 2003. It has since restructured, and first-half results exceeded expectations as operating profit rose 6% to £41m.


1 BSkyB 63.1

2 WPP Group 61.8

3 Pearson 58.4

4 Reed Elsevier 55.2

5 Emap 52.9

ITV, Yell and EMI are new entries, and the sector score rose from 526.7 to 547. Yet advertising revenues still trail the highs of 2000, and share prices remain depressed. BSkyB is again the sector number one. James Murdoch, son of Rupert and the company's CEO, is sailing a steady course, although he'll have a job to meet BSkyB's target of 10 million subscribers by 2010. Annual turnover for 2003-04 was up 15% to £3.7bn, and pre-tax profit rose to £480m. WPP is another strong performer, with Q3 turnover for 2004 up 5.7%, although net new-business billings for the period dropped to £234m. Pearson failed to impress this year, although it has at least stemmed first-half losses at the FT from £15m to £6m. Expect a better year all round in 2005.


1 BP 68.6

2 BG Group 60.3

3 BHP Billiton 58.9

4 Anglo American 57.2

5 Shell Transport & Trading 57.1

This sector has suffered the year's biggest drop, from a score of 564 to 517 and a fall in the rankings from second to 13th. BP remains at the top, and has posted increased profits for the third quarter of 2004, up to $3.04bn. The oil price may be rocketing, but increasing costs are cutting profit margins sector-wide. Shamed Shell only just makes it into to the sector top five. The company came unstuck for overstating its proved oil reserves but has just announced a restructuring in which the British and Dutch parts of the company will merge into a single London-listed £100bn giant. The surprise star has been Scottish-based Cairn Energy, which struck oil five times in eight months in northern India. Its share price has leapt from £4 to a high of over £15 in the past year.


1 British Land Co 56.1

2 Hammerson 55.9

3 Land Securities 55.1

4 Pillar Property 54.7

5 Liberty International 52.4

This year, British Land knocks Hammerson from the sector top spot. BL has splashed out recently with the £174m purchase of 65 pubs from Spirit Group, and £192m spent on two shopping centres. Investors will be relieved that the company's succession issue has been resolved with the appointment of ex-Abbey man Stephen Hester. Full-year pre-tax profits are up 6.7% to £186m. Hammerson isn't faring too badly either, with first-half profits up 36% to £64.6m, in part due to a one-off assets sale of £22m. Meanwhile, the interminable bidding war for Canary Wharf (no. 8) is finally over, with the Morgan Stanley-led consortium Songbird emerging victorious after a bid of £1.7bn.


1 Greene King 64.7

2 JD Wetherspoon 63.2

3 Enterprise Inns 57.6

4 Mitchells & Butlers 57.0

5 Wolverhampton & Dudley 56.3

Greene King is this year's new category leader. The Suffolk-based brewer enjoyed a 10% rise in profits and made its biggest-ever deal when it bought Laurel's 432 pubs for £654m. Growth has slowed, however, at aggressive high-street pub chain JD Wetherspoon; profits fell 11%, disappointing analysts. Britain's biggest pub company Enterprise Inns, meanwhile, leapt three places, having joined the FTSE-100 in March. An increase in profits and a robust defence of its business model went down well with the City. In fourth place lies Mitchells & Butlers, created last year by the split of Six Continents into two separate pub and hotel groups. Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries secured contracts that will make it Britain's biggest traditional beer brewer.


1 Tesco 68.1

2 Next 63.1

3 Wm Morrison 56.2

4 Burberry Group 55.7

5 Marks & Spencer 51.0

Last year's Most Admired company enjoyed another exceptional year, with half-year profits jumping 28%. Tesco's enormous success rests in part on its expansion into non-food sales. Next has performed well, defying the rainy summer to please the City with better than expected half-year results. The situation is less rosy at Morrison's, which continues to lose market share. In October, it issued its first profit warning for decades amid reports that the integration of Safeway was proving difficult. Meanwhile, licensing deals and new international shop launches played an important part in Burberry's good fortune. Marks & Spencer's year can only be described as tumultuous. Is new CEO Stuart Rose M&S's last hope?


1 Carphone Warehouse 62.1

2 Kingfisher 59.5

3 GUS 55.5

4 MFI 52.5

5 HMV 51.9

The continued European store expansion of Carphone Warehouse and the growing demand for its TalkTalk landline service have given CEO Charles Dunstone much cause for celebration. Kingfisher, owner of B&Q and Castorama, fuelled profits with new store openings in Poland, as well as tapping into consumers' aspirational spending. GUS shrugged off challenging conditions on the high street to deliver record profits at Argos, Homebase and Experian. MFI slipped two places, a reflection of a series of problems that led to profit warnings and the resignation of its finance director. Speculation centres on a possible takeover bid by GUS or Kingfisher. HMV continues to report solid sales growth, despite intensifying competition from supermarkets.


1 Man Group 67.9

2 Icap 59.8

3 Close Brothers 58.7

4 3i 58.4

5 Schroders 58.0

Man has eclipsed its rivals once again, despite tougher trading circumstances. Full-year profits swelled by 46% to £435m, and pre-tax profits for the six months to the end of September rose by 21%. CEO Stanley Fink became the highest-paid FTSE-100 boss last year, earning £6.9m. But the City raised concerns over the sustainability of Man's business model. Inter-dealer broker Icap capitalised on its electronic trading to increase market share. Close Brothers reported a 30% increase in full-year profits, but warned of slowing UK growth. 3i's new CEO Philip Yea instigated a shake-up of senior management, and Schroders announced an 18% increase in interim dividends after higher-than-expected profits for the first half of 2004.


1 Serco Group 67.4

2 Compass 63.2

3 Capita Group 62.7

4 Bunzl 62.0

5 Hays 58.6

A triumphant debut for outsourcing services business Serco, which knocked Capita off the top spot with a combination of big contract wins and bulging profits. In September, it announced a five-year contract from the US Department of Agriculture, worth $5.9m a year, marking a triumph in its attempt to crack the US market. Compass holds firm in second place, though a warning on profits, cashflow, contract difficulties and tough trading conditions wiped 25% off its value. Capita's steady revenue rises, with healthy profits and new contract wins, point to strong future growth. Bunzl continues to expand into Europe and the US in search of higher margins. A landmark year for Hays, which completed its metamorphosis into a dedicated recruitment company.


1 Vodafone 66.3

2 mmO2 57.6

3 BT Group 50.0

4 Vanco 47.5

5 Easynet Group 46.8

Vodafone leapt five points this year, topping a far more optimistic sector. It continues on its seven-year worldwide integration programme, and pleased shareholders by doubling its half-year dividend despite a 6% fall in profits. It remains the leading British operator in the international market. mm02 scores more points this year, a reflection of the headway it has made in notching up a market share of close to 25%. BT's focus on wireless internet access and broadband continues with new deals that boost 'new wave' revenues. Profits for the three months to end-September reached £549m, up 4% on 2003. New entrant Vanco strengthened its global presence by winning significant contracts, fuelling a turnover increase of 37%.


1 BAA 54.7

2 British Airways 54.5

3 BBA 52.9

4 Exel 51.5

5 Associated British Ports 50.0

The sector performed slightly better this year, with overall scores nudging up 12.6 points. BAA's path to the top has not been smooth, what the funding of a second Stansted runway and a legal dispute with Ryanair. But it experienced its busiest August ever, and profits soared 16% to £363m for first-half 2004. British Airways sold its 18.25% stake in Qantas for about £425m, and Lord Marshall stepped down as chairman. Profits for the first half of the year rose to £335m following a second quarter when profits jumped more than 50%. BBA expanded further in the US with its acquisition of Airport Group International for $24m. Exel bought rival Tibbett & Britten, and Associated British Ports clinched a host of deals as part of its 10-year growth strategy.


1 Centrica 56.9

2 Scottish & Southern Energy 53.8

3 Severn Trent 53.3

4 Scottish Power 50.9

5 United Utilities 49.7

Centrica's big news for 2004 was its £1.7bn sale of the AA. Despite rising gas bills, its growth prospects in gas storage and possible acquisitions in the US should please shareholders. Scottish & Southern Energy spent £1bn on acquisitions, doubled the size of its power generation business, and took control of two gas networks in a £3.2bn deal with National Grid. It remains the only principal supplier not to have increased its prices this winter. Severn Trent appointed Sir John Egan as chairman and Colin Matthews as CEO. Last year's summer boosted sales by £2.5m. Scottish Power spent £320m buying a natural gas plant, part of a £1.2bn investment. And United Utilities won a £1.5bn-a-year contract with a Welsh water company.

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