1 HSBC 63.67

2 Royal Bank of Scotland 63.43

3 Barclays 60.86

4 HBOS 58.38

5 Lloyds TSB 54.95


The UK's second-largest quoted company, HSBC, takes the sector top spot once again with a score nearly identical to last year's. New CEO Stephen Green has brushed off City fears over bad debts, and profits for the first half of this year are up 26%. He is unlikely to be as popular with the 4,000 UK staff whose jobs are to be shipped to India, Malaysia and China by 2005. Top marks for management, value as a long-term investment and use of corporate assets pushed acquisitive RBS up to second place, three years after it took over rival NatWest. This year's deals for boss Fred 'The Shred' Goodwin include &#163;227m for Swiss Private Bank HVB and &#163;618m for Irish mortgage bank First Active. Record losses put Abbey National tenth and last.



1 Smiths Group 64.1

2 Cobham 59.7

3 Meggitt 59.4

4 Ultra Electronics 56.1

5 Rolls-Royce 55.7


The end of a three-year restructuring programme based on the disposal of &#163;470m of assets and the acquisition of &#163;360m of higher-margin businesses - plus its Joint Strike Fighter contracts - helped Smiths Group to top its sector. Despite a 22% drop in profits this year to &#163;217.4m and a pension deficit of &#163;308m, the engineering conglomerate was rated best-in-class in five of the nine criteria. Cobham has made 12 purchases this year, most recently paying &#163;6m for Harrison, a US aviation business. Rising demand for its laser-guided bombs and missiles pushed the firm's interims to June '03 up 11% on last year. Strong sales from its Canadian radio subsidiary eased 'battlespace IT' firm Ultra Electronics into fourth place.



1 Marshalls 58.7

2 Aggregate Industries 58.1

3 BPB Industries 57.5

4 Wolseley 57.3

5= Hanson/Travis Perkins 56.9


With profits rising steadily for the past five years, the streets really are paved with gold for Halifax-based concrete, clay and stone products business Marshalls. Contracts at Winson Green prison, Birmingham and Galleon's Reach retail park in London, plus the booming DIY market, helped create a &#163;30.6m suplus for the six months to August. Second-placed Aggregate Industries sold 25.3m tons of aggregate and 1.8m cubic metres of ready-mixed concrete last year, making a record &#163;89.2m despite strife across the pond when employees of its Boston subsidiary AI Northeast were indicted for price-fixing. Fifth-placed Hanson gets the gold watch for being a survivor of MT's very first Most Admired Award in '94, when it came 98th overall.



1 Unilever 67.4

2 Cadbury Schweppes 67.4

3 Northern Foods 55.3

4 Tate & Lyle 54.5

5 Associated British Foods 53.9


Here is a sector topped by two big beasts that constantly slug it out for first place. Unilever's dominance this year is impressive, bearing in mind it remains partway through a big transition process ('Path to Growth') that will bring an exclusive focus on 400 brands - sadly, not including much-loved Ambrosia rice pudding and ready-to-use custard, offloaded in November for &#163;100m. Unilever delivered a 10% rise in third-quarter profits this year. While the sector leader divests, runner-up Cadbury Schweppes has been on the acquisition trail (its mantra is 'Fuel for Growth'). The latest big tank-fillers have included chewing-gum business Adams, although the new CEO Todd Stitzer now promises 'efficiency improvements'.



1 Johnson Matthey 65.8

2 BOC 62.1

3 Croda International 57.4

4 Victrex 54.3

5 Yule Catto 51.5


Johnson Matthey - a major world supplier of catalytic convertors - also developed the fuel cell technology behind the UK's first three hydrogen-powered buses, which hit the streets of London in the summer. Strong demand increased profits to &#163;176.1m in the year when veteran CEO Chris Clark - 41 years with the firm - said he was stepping down. BOC maintained steady earnings in a harsh market, gaining top marks for financial soundness. Former industrial chemical business Croda International's shift to high-margin markets has paid off, pushing profits to &#163;20m. Victrex was helped to fourth by 50% gross margins on its only product, a high-performance plastic, with generic drug business Yule Catto a creditable fifth.



1 Tesco 73.7

2 Morrison, Wm 66.9

3 Sainsbury, J 60.5

4 Thorntons 58.0

5 Whittard of Chelsea 52.4


Tesco's scores in 2003 leave all opponents standing, and it could now be heading for a world title fight with Wal-Mart. Morrisons is on a roll, too - it now looks as though Safeway will be its 'supermarket sweep'. Interestingly, Sir Ken's Yorkshire tykes beat Tesco on Financial Soundness with a remarkable 8.9, the highest rating for any company in any criterion this year. Sainsbury's in third continues to experience a tough time. Its boss Sir Peter Davis is now under pressure, with sales falling and the firm well short of meeting targets. If Christmas sales don't look good, the City will want heads to roll. Languishing on the canvas in 10th place is Big Food (once Iceland), which is only a few slots off the bottom of the big Most Admired table.



1 Berkeley Group 58.6

2 Persimmon 58.2

3 Barratt Developments 57.8

4 Bovis Homes 57.3

5 Wimpey, G 56.5


Despite property price wobbles this year, all the top five construction companies are house-builders. Tony Pidgley's Berkeley Group (see p66) - specialising in brownfield luxury developments made &#163;215.7m in the first half. Runner-up Persimmon and third-placed Barratt are both best known for greenfield developments; each built more than 12,000 houses last year on the way to profits of around &#163;300m. Top-ranking for community and environmental responsibility helped Bovis Homes to fourth, while decent scores for innovation and retaining talent put Wimpey at fifth. But how will they fare if interest rates keep rising? Engineering contractor AMEC plunged from second in '02 to 10th this year, despite building the Channel Tunnel rail link.



1 GlaxoSmithKline 69.5

2 AstraZeneca 69.3

3 Reckitt Benckiser 62.8

4 Smith & Nephew 60.7

5 Amersham 56.8


GlaxoSmithKline is clearly on the right medication, as it again beats rival AstraZeneca to the sector top spot. Strong third-quarter pre-tax profits for '03 rose 22% to &#163;1.69bn. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca CEO Sir Tom McKillop has fallen out with The Lancet, following a story about hard-sell tactics for AZ's new cholesterol-reducing drug Crestor, and doubts over its effectiveness. The sector remains confident, with a strong international presence - not unnoticed by General Electric, which spent &#163;5.7bn acquiring Amersham and appointing CEO Sir William Castells to the GE board. Reckitt Benckiser performed well, but may still be hungry for an acquisition after talks with SSL broke down this year.



1 Legal & General 57.8

2 Jardine Lloyd Thompson 52.1

3 Prudential 50.8

4 Aviva 47.8

5 Old Mutual 43.6


The beleaguered insurance sector showed signs of recovery in recent months, as CEOs lined up to make positive statements about returning investor confidence and an improving market. But share prices largely remain depressed as policyholders fume over slashed dividends and 'rewards for failure'. Legal & General is still top of the heap, with its recent 8% growth in new business, while the insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson appears in second place. Prudential, which cut dividend payments by 40% in July, drops from second to third. The sector's poor confidence is reflected in the overall score of 432.7, one of the lowest. As analysts predict industry consolidation, which companies will survive the new year?



1 Carnival* 64.8

2 Hilton Group 58.4

3 Whitbread 58.2

4 Rank Group 56.7

5 William Hill 55.9


Mixed results here - the combined effects of war in Iraq and the SARS outbreak took their toll on the hotels, but other areas fared better. Full steam ahead for Carnival, which takes the number one slot after P&O Princess Cruises' well-received &#163;3.5bn merger with US rival Carnival Corp. Hilton and Rank both put in a steady performance, marred by lower profits on the hotels side. Whitbread, owner of Travel Inn and David Lloyd leisure centres, jumps from seventh to third. Half-year results for 2003 showed profits up 11% to &#163;134m, and a boosted dividend payout. William Hill took a punt on the stock market last year that seems to have paid off. Since its flotation, shares in the gaming group have risen 40%, valuing it at &#163;1.3bn.



1 BSkyB 67.0

2 Reed Elsevier 58.4

3 Emap 56.3

4 Daily Mail & General Trust 56.2

5 Pearson 55.1


BSkyB, Europe's largest pay TV company, retains the sector top slot and has unveiled strong Q3 results, with turnover up 17% to &#163;850m. Incoming CEO James Murdoch has a tough act to follow maintaining this performance. Publisher Reed Elsevier has done well, particularly in its internet division.

Emap's consumer magazines and radio stations have delivered growth, though its music TV channels look less healthy. Daily Mail & General Trust holds firm, despite a continued slump in ad revenue. Pearson still fails to live up to its potential, announcing half-year losses of &#163;1m in June.

Marjorie Scardino's hopes lie in a strong second half. WPP drops from third to sixth place, and Reuters - top in 1994 - is last in the sector and 167th overall.



1 BP 68.8

2 Shell Transport & Trading 67.9

3 Rio Tinto 62.4

4 BG Group 62.3

5 Wood, J Group 58.3


Oil prices have soared following the war in Iraq and Opec's decision to reduce daily output by 900,000 barrels. This has been good for BP, which retains the sector top-spot, albeit with a reduced score. Third-quarter results were strong, with profits up 25% on '02. BP leapfrogged Shell to become the world's second-largest petroleum producer, on completion of a &#163;4.1bn deal with Russia's TNK, taking BP's daily output to 3.95m barrels. Shell disappointed analysts with lower-than-expected Q3 results and a failure to meet its stated production capability of 3%. BG Group prospered as gas enjoyed fast sales growth. BP and Shell dominate among smaller companies - an indication of the UK's failure to achieve strength in depth.



1 Hammerson 54.1

2 Pillar Property 52.9

3 Land Securities 52.9

4 British Land Co 51.2

5 Canary Wharf 48.7


The sector's overall score fell earlier this year, but incomes and share prices have since recovered and the top four property companies are trading close to their peak share price for the past 12 months. Sector leader Hammerson had strong half-year results, with rental income up to &#163;97m and pre-tax profit up 7.6%. In September, it unveiled Birmingham's Bull Ring centre. Pillar Properties turned last year's &#163;11.7m loss into a near-&#163;16m profit, and Land Securities has signed lucrative redevelopment contracts with the Government and the BBC. At British Land, John Ritblat saw off Laxey Partners' challenge to oust him. Canary Wharf slid from pole position to number five, while uncertainty looms over its future ownership.



1 Sage Group 64.7

2 iSOFT 62.0

3 Computacenter 57.3

4 Xansa 56.0

5 LogicaCMG 54.5


Sage Group jumps to first place, still the only British software firm in the FTSE 100 - a position retiring co-founder Graham Wylie can be proud of. Profits rose 12% to &#163;151m on a &#163;560m turnover. In second place is healthcare software company iSOFT, currently considering a &#163;700m merger with rival Torex. iSOFT reported a 52% growth in turnover to &#163;91.5m for the year to end-April. Computacenter slips to third - profits were up 31.2% to &#163;32m for first-half 2003. Xansa won important contracts with BT, Royal Mail and the Learning & Skills Council, though profits fell 40% to &#163;27.7m and founder Hilary Cropper stepped down as chairman. LogicaCMG netted an &#163;80m military communications contract from the MoD.



1 Diageo 66.7

2 Wetherspoon, JD 54.1

3 Greene King 51.7

4 Allied Domecq 50.3

5 SABMiller 50.0


Diageo's CEO Paul Walsh can pour himself a double scotch as the world's largest distiller retakes the top spot. It is alone this year in being ranked number one in each sector category. Yet the &#163;20bn company announced significantly lower profits for '03, mostly due to the &#163;1.4bn loss sustained on the Burger King sale. Pub chain JD Wether- spoon is second, although CEO Tim Martin's unexpected sabbatical worries some. Greene King beat City forecasts, with profits up 8% for '02. It may try to acquire any strays left over from Spirit's recent acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle's pub estate. Allied Domecq, the world's second-biggest drinks firm (market valuation &#163;4.19bn), is fourth, 15 points behind Diageo, closely followed by SABMiller.



1 Man Group 61.5

2 Close Brothers 54.5

3 3i 52.9

4 ICAP 52.7

5 Provident Financial 51.9


Man Group's fine performance catapulted it into the FTSE 100, with a new $740m global hedge fund breaking its own records. CEO Stanley Fink wants to increase assets under management from $31.5bn to $50bn by '07. Close Brothers comes a distant second, upping profits by 14% despite uncertainty over its future ownership. It bought Nelson Money Managers, which has &#163;900m of assets, for an undisclosed sum. 3i is planning a Eu3bn buy-out fund next year - its largest deal of '03 was the acquisition of Dutch company Refresco Holding for &#163;176m. ICAP expects record profits this year, and Provident Financial reported a 23% rise in first-half turnover driven by the strong performance of its recent acquisition Yes Car Credit.



1 Next 65.8

2 Selfridges* 61.4

3 Marks & Spencer 61.2

4 New Look Group 58.0

5 Burberry Group 56.8


The long hot summer caught retailers on the hop. Autumn stock was out early, but as temperatures soared, customers weren't buying. Mid-market fashion retailer Next remains the sector leader, with strong underlying sales and ambitious expansion plans. Selfridges makes its final appearance, as Canadian Galen Weston has taken the company private. M&S is still in the top five, but the rapid growth of recent years is slowing and shares have dipped below &#163;3. Fashion chain New Look makes number four, though rumours abound that it too may shortly be taken private. Burberry Group is a new entry at fifth, with strong international sales despite a shaky start to the year. This sector faces a threat from supermarket fashion brands.



1 Capita Group 65.6

2 Compass 65.5

3 Bunzl 64.7

4 Rentokil Initial 63.3

5 Rexam 58.2


This is 2003's highest overall sector score. Capita Group is at the top for the second year running. Turnover is up 36%, despite needing to renegotiate its contract for the too-successful London congestion charge. It's now expanding into India, with a 60% stake in software developer Mastek. Catering firm Compass Group said strong client retention should bring a 6% growth in turnover, and outsourcer Bunzl is up two places, proving it can reduce costs and increase volumes and margins despite the weak dollar. Rentokil Initial's new CEO James Wilde presided over a better-than-expected first half. In fifth place is Rexam, whose proposed bid for Latasa could make it the world's largest drinks can manufacturer.



1 Carphone Warehouse 58.7

2 MFI Furniture 54.4

3 Boots 53.6

4 Kingfisher 53.4

5 DFS Furniture 49.9


The Carphone Warehouse is expecting a cracking Christmas. Profits are up 69%, it's creating 1,000 new jobs and its entry into the residential fixed-line business is proving a subscriber success. No wonder it knocked Boots off the top spot. MFI Furniture takes second for its double-digit profit and turnover growth, driven by Conran-designed store refurbishments, repositioning as a one-stop shop and a strong contribution from Howden Joinery. Boots slides to third, profits having fallen by &#163;100m. New CEO Richard Baker is resuscitating the UK's favourite chemist after the failed Wellbeing and Pure Beauty initiatives. Kingfisher, now a DIY business, reported a Q3 rise in like-for-like sales of 3.6%. FD Helen Weir stepped down.



1 Vodafone 60.8

2 mmO2 52.9

3 Orange 47.0

4 BT 45.0

5 Cable & Wireless 37.6


This is the most depressed sector ever recorded in Most Admired, scoring a total of 411. Only Vodafone managed a decent showing, with a lead of eight points. New CEO Arun Sarin sold its Japanese fixed-line telecoms business for &#163;1.4bn in August, the largest cash deal in the industry this year, having already acquired Singlepoint and Project Telecom. Things were less posi- tive at mm02, which reported a loss of &#163;10.2bn for the year to March, though in the six months to September '03 it posted a first-ever profit of &#163;26m. Sol Trujillo was installed as CEO at third-placed Orange, delisted by its owner France Telecom. BT Group pleased shareholders with a dividend hike and a 26% rise in profits, but angered staff with plans to open call centres in India.



1 BAA 53.5

2 Exel 52.6

3 P&O 48.8

4 BBA 48.4

5 Associated British Ports 47.5


There was big drop in the total scores for this sector this year to 467.2. BAA, with new CEO Mike Clasper in charge, topped the table for financial soundness and quality of service, despite its strained relationship with the airline industry and the Government over proposed airport expansion at Stansted and Heathrow. Exel has won logistics contracts from competitors and converted this into profitable growth. P&O returned to half-year profits, owing to an upturn in cargo shipping. In July, it furthered its conversion to a pure ports business by investing &#163;800m in a Chinese container port joint venture. Aviation services group BBA posted an 11% drop in first-half profits to &#163;61.2m; boss Roy McGlone expects better second-half results.



1 National Grid Transco 52.8

2 Scottish & Southern Energy 51.5

3 Centrica 49.8

4 Severn Trent 49.4

5 United Utilities 46.7


This year's sector winner National Grid Transco has shaken off criticism over power cuts in Birmingham and London, thanks largely to a financial performance that has kept investors onside. NGT is considering the sale of its gas pipeline networks, which could fetch up to &#163;5bn. In September, Scottish & Southern Energy walked away from the &#163;1.1bn takeover of Midlands Electricity after failing to agree terms with the firm's bondholders, which would have made it the UK's largest distributor. Centrica took the plunge into offshore windfarms, setting up a &#163;100m joint venture with two Scandinavian companies, and won a contract to operate a gas pipeline facility from Norway. It sold loss-making credit card business Goldfish for &#163;112m in August.

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