Sector by sector
Across 25 industries, we highlight the companies held in the highest esteem by their rivals.
|5||Lloyds Banking Group||78|
A bold new winner in a storm-tossed sector
Tough domestic markets but overseas opportunities beckon
With revenues for the first nine months of EUR2.27bn, Irish rigid insulation specialist Kingspan is on target for full-year profits up 30% to EUR335m. CEO Gene Murtagh and his team, committed to over EUR200m of acquisitions, are on the hunt for takeover targets in countries including Mexico, Brazil, Singapore and Indonesia.
Second-placed Travis Perkins continues to do well despite recent weaker market conditions, with H1 revenues up 5.8% to £3.1bn. In third, Wolseley posted revenues up 4.2% to £14.4bn for the year to July thanks largely to US sales. In the UK, 800 jobs are to go as part of a £100m restructure.
Johnson Matthey's batteries, Victrex's fantastic plastic
The world's leading supplier of automotive catalytic converters, sector winner (and fifth overall) Johnson Matthey has branched out into batteries to protect its future. Chief exec Robert MacLeod expects this new division to make a profit for the first time this year. Fallout from the VW dieselgate scandal helped H1 sales and profits to rise by 5%, to £1.68bn and £219.6m respectively. In second place is Victrex, world-leader in PEEK, an engineering polymer used in everything from aircraft to oil platforms. Surfactants business Croda, comes in third. It makes ingredients for lipsticks, car paint and shampoo among others and Q3 sales rose 20% to £315.3m.
Construction - home
|2||Crest Nicholson Holdings||83.6|
|5||McCarthy & Stone||81.8|
Berkeley brings home the bacon, Brexit fears bubble under
Another win for Tony Pidgley's Berkeley Group. The south-east based builder also come a very respectable fourth in the overall table, up one place from last year. With profits for 2016 of £531m, it's now moving into the build-to-rent sector, joining forces with the GLA to redevelop a 26-acre site in east London. Over 10 points adrift in second place comes Crest Nicholson with H1 revenues and profits both up over 20% at £408.1m and £72.6m respectively. The housebuilder has admitted receiving 'a whole stack of cancellations' the day after the referendum, but CEO Stephen Stone says that sales have recovered 'very strongly'.
Engineering and machinery
Slowing industrial growth and cheap oil cause friction
Steam systems and pump firm Spirax-Sarco Engineering takes the top spot. H1 pre-tax profits rose 28% to £73.4m. Last year's winner Rotork, in second, felt the pain from the battered oil and gas sector. H1 operating profits at the valve maker dropped 32.4% to £50.1m after adjustments for currency movements and acquisitions, which included the purchase of US gear maker Mastergear for $25m in April. Fresh from its £3.3bn sale of its thermal gas business Elster to Honeywell last year, third-placed turnaround firm Melrose got stuck into its next acquisition, funding a $2.8bn purchase of US manufacturer Nortek with a major rights issue.
Health and household
Scandal and the sweet medicine of sliding sterling
Life assurance and insurance
|1||St. James's Place Wealth Mgt||85.2|
|5||Legal & General Group||79.8|
Low rates can't keep a good sector down
Oil, gas and extractive
|1||Royal Dutch Shell||96.3|
Royal Dutch Shell wins, fossil fuels are back in fashion again
First-placed Royal Dutch Shell completed its £35bn acquisition of BG Group and the deal does not appear to have been the over-priced disaster that some predicted. Its Q3 CCS earnings attributable to shareholders were $1.4bn compared with a loss of $6.1bn for the same quarter a year ago. Oil prices are coming back from their lows, and Shell is well positioned to capitalise on the demand for hydrocarbon fuels. BHP Billiton takes second spot despite the reputational disaster it suffered with the collapse of the Samarco dam in Brazil. The miner also announced plans to achieve gender equality by employing 50% female staff by 2025.
Retail - broadline/home
|2||John Lewis Partnership||84.5|
Dixons Carphone is top of the shops, beating John Lewis
Mergers are notoriously difficult to get right, but so far the union of Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse seems to be going rather well. Dixons Carphone reported a 17% jump in underlying annual profits in June and now it's most admired in its sector, even sneaking ahead of middle England's favourite department store John Lewis. White goods retailer AO's fortunes have been in a spin, but widened losses have brought with them rapid expansion across Europe. Next slipped from first in its sector to fourth - that's one result its boss Lord Wolfson won't be able to blame on the weather. Value homewares firm Dunelm rounds out the top five.
Retail - specialist
|2||Pets at Home Group||81.9|
|4||B&M (European Value Retail)||79.4|
Greggs bakes up a win, Pets at Home scrapes second
Once infamous for its stodgy northern grub, Greggs has been busy reshaping its image as a purveyor of fine salads, soups and wraps, and clearly people have taken notice as it tops its sector for 2016 after a long run of sales growth. Its latest wheeze? Sourdough pasties - one for the Cornish hipsters among us. There's a new top dog at second-placed Pets at Home, which appointed its long-serving finance chief Ian Kellett (the proud owner of a Weimaraner and a Viszla) as CEO this year. Poundland, in third, was snapped up by South Africa's Steinhoff after the outcome of the EU referendum forced down the value of the pound.
Speciality and other finance
|2||London Stock Exchange||82.7|
Hargreaves Lansdown wins in a volatile year for the markets
It's been a bumpy time for the financial markets. In January, a marked slowdown in the Chinese economy caused a commodities rout and a plunge in equities - leading some to ask if we were on the edge of another economic precipice. But since June's EU vote, the FTSE 100 has been in counter-intuitively good health as the value of the pound has collapsed. Brexit-backer Peter Hargreaves has another reason to be happy as the asset management firm he co-founded, Hargreaves Lansdown, tops its sector ahead of the London Stock Exchange, which is set to merge with Germany's Deutsche Borse. Sub-prime lender Provident Financial comes third.
|2||International Airlines Group||83.5|
Planes not trains take the honours
Diageo on top, SABMiller and AB InBev conclude megabrew deal
Former double overall Britain's Most Admired Company winner Diageo is back on top of its sector this year. Boss Ivan Menezes - who took over back in 2013 - is gaining momentum at last, with 2017 growth priorities of Scotch whisky, the Indian market and US spirits all set to be given a helping hand by the weak pound. An effervescent performance from BMAC first-timer Fever-Tree, whose upmarket mixers have helped shares to rise 645% since it floated on AIM two years ago. SABMiller, in third, has just completed the will-they-won't-they £79bn mega-merger with seventh placed AB InBev, the world's largest ever deal in a consumer industry.
Business support services
Experian's credit is good, Brexit bonus for Rentokil
A sector win and 10th place overall for credit-check specialist Experian. The boom in online retailing helped profits for the six months to September rise 14% to $520m, on revenues steady at $2.23bn. The firm uses big data techniques to help credit card companies, banks and retailers minimise fraud and bad debts. It employs 2,700 in Nottingham, where it was founded, although its HQ is now in Dublin. In second place, Surrey-based Rentokil Initial derives 90% of its income from outside the UK and expects to receive a Brexit boost thanks to the weak pound. It's also won several mosquito control contracts as a result of the Zika virus scare.
Construction - heavy
|3||Morgan Sindall Group||77.9|
Rivals vie to benefit from jump in infrastructure spending
A win for Bedford-based Kier Group, despite posting a £15m loss in 2016 as a result of one-off costs relating to restructuring and its £265m takeover of highways-specialist Mouchel last year. The deal should put Kier in a strong position to benefit from more roadbuilding and upcoming big projects including Hinkley Point and HS2. Engineering specialist Costain has just won the £120m contract for a new station at Gatwick Airport, and is also pioneering ways in which electric cars can feed power back into the grid while charging. Construction outfit Morgan Sindall in third has an order book of £3.1bn and steady H1 revenues of £1.15bn.
Engineering - aero and defence
A turbulent time in aerospace and fall in sterling clouds skies
Both sector-leader GKN and the firm it finally displaced from the top spot, Rolls-Royce, advocated staying in the EU. Share prices have been buoyant for both since the Brexit vote, as befits exporters that report in pounds, but it could be the calm before the storm. Lost contracts forced GKN to slash hundreds of jobs in Yeovil and Telford, while the disposal of its Stromag business for EUR184m in October only partly alleviated its gnawing pensions deficit. At Rolls, cost-cutting CEO Warren East's turnaround plan has been overshadowed by a £2.2bn hit to its currency hedges. In third place is underwater specialist Ultra Electronics.
Food producers and processors
|4||Associated British Foods||84.3|
Currency issues and deflation lead to mixed results
Last year's Most Admired Company Unilever still packs a serious punch, winning its sector and coming in second overall this year. The FMCG polymath had underlying sales growth of 4.2% during the first nine months of the year to EUR39.7bn, driven by emerging markets but unsullied by an unseemly spat with Tesco over Brexit-related price increases. Food and ingredients business Kerry Group came in second, despite net profits falling 6.5% in the first half to EUR222m, in part because of price deflation in Europe. Earnings at fellow Irish dairy queen Glanbia, in third place, rose 13.7% to EUR157.4m, led by its performance nutrition division.
Leisure and hotels
|1||InterContinental Hotels Group||91.7|
Relentless expansion but rising costs
Scale is key in the hotel business, so it's not surprising to see sector-leader IHG expanding at pace, particularly in the US and China. The firm, which also came first in its Use of Corporate Assets, increased room numbers by 3.8% in Q3 to 754,000 - with 230,000 in the pipeline. All this should help underlying growth, but so far that's been mitigated by the strong dollar. Merlin Entertainments, in second, rose from 120th to 13th overall, despite - or because of - the aftermath of its 2015 Smiler rollercoaster crash. Third-placed Whitbread is trying to grow its Premier Inn and Costa brands, despite a hit from coffee prices and the National Living Wage.
B2B publisher defies all the disrupters
|1||Great Portland Estates||87.3|
Caution is the order of the day in uncertain conditions
The prime London commercial property market was one of the worst hit in the post-Brexit turmoil with share prices plunging. And yet the top three places in this sector are taken by specialists who concentrate almost exclusively on the UK capital. Derwent London is displaced at the top by its closest competitor Great Portland Estates. GPE boss Toby Courtauld is preparing the group for a dip in the commercial property market, selling £293m of assets this year and cutting its LTV to a modest 16%. Second place went to Workspace Group, formed from the privatisation of the former GLC's property assets.
Restaurants and pubs
|1||McDonald's Restaurants UK||90.5|
|2||Domino's Pizza (UK)||80.5|
McDonald's bags the McTop Spot, followed by Domino's Pizza
McDonald's in the US has been in dire straits of late as health-conscious and well-heeled millennials have started to go elsewhere for their fast food fix. But its British arm remains a saving grace. It's back in the top spot this year with a barnstorming 90.5 points - despite the loss of its renowned boss Jill McDonald, who now runs Halfords. Despite a run of good results, last year's winner Domino's Pizza delivered a distant second ahead of train station and airport restaurants operator SSP. Pub chain Greene King stormed up the list to fourth followed by fellow boozer JD Wetherspoon. Fast-growing upstart Just Eat narrowly missed out on the top five.
Retail - food and personal
|5||Wallgreens Boots Alliance||76.1|
Discounters remain on top, but Tesco ups its game
No prizes for guessing who wins the category of most admired grocery company, yet again. After another difficult year for the 'big four', fast-growing German discounters Aldi and Lidl take the top two places as they continue on their quest to entice middle England through their doors. Tesco isn't taking the challenge lying down, though, and is back in third this year after falling out of the top five entirely two years ago. It's an impressive return after its devastating accounting scandal; how will November's cyberattack on its bank go down? Fellow giant Sainsbury's, now the proud owner of Argos, follows in fourth.
Software and computer services
The Japanese get a bargain with ARM, Halma's record dividends
ARM is the clear category winner and also takes the overall gong for Most Admired Company. A good buy for the Japanese. In second is Halma the low-profile safety, health and environmental technology group based in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, which is the UK's largest manufacturer of smoke detectors. Halma posted turnover of £807.8m for the year to April 2016 and pre-tax profits grew by 8% to £166m. Its total dividend was hiked by 7% which made it Halma's record-breaking 37th consecutive year of dividend per share increases of 5% or more. Third was fast-growing SME accounts specialist Sage Group.
BT triumphs over Telefonica, Vodafone stays in the top three
BT faces a regular storm of criticism from its competitors over its management of Openreach, the division that operates and maintains much of the country's broadband infrastructure. But its peers clearly still respect the former state monopoly, which tops its sector. Next up is Telefonica (UK), holding company of O2, whose fate is still uncertain after European officials blocked its acquisition by Hong Kong's CK Hutchison. Third-placed Vodafone topped the total rankings in the new criteria of corporate governance. Relative minnow Telecom Plus sneaks into fourth ahead of satellite operator Inmarsat, which is rolling out high-speed Wi-Fi for airline passengers.
Severn Trent satisfies, keeping the home fires burning
Once the bad boy of the sector following a grim falsification of customer data in the noughties, under its newish female CEO Liv Garfield, Severn Trent is now keeping Ofwat happy. It claims to have the lowest water and sewage bills in Britain and complaints are down 28% year on year. Full-year profits rose 4.4% to £313.6m and it expected to make £670m in efficiency savings by 2020. Although the UK experienced its first day without any coal-fired electricity production for 134 years last April, National Grid, in second, has had to award contracts worth £122m to keep coal and gas-fired power stations on standby to prevent blackouts this winter.