Britain's Most Admired Companies - Sector by Sector

Here's the nitty-gritty of the Most Admired awards: stark proof of the peer-group assessment that is at the heart of MT's poll. The 10 largest public companies in each sector rated their nine rivals. Our commentary focuses on how the league- topping firms in 22 sectors coped in a year when the economic mood changed.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

1 Royal Bank of Scotland 63.5
2 Barclays 61.1
3 HSBC 60.2
4 HBOS 58.9
5 Standard Chartered 55.6

It has been an eventful year in banking. Not only has there been a huge takeover battle, there's also a full-blown financial crisis. RBS edged ahead of Barclays as the Most Admired - just as it did in the Eu70bn battle for control of Dutch bank ABN Amro, which consumed so much time and money this year. But the big news has been the global credit crunch, which changed the landscape dramatically. The most high-profile casualty was Northern Rock - more than £20bn in debt to the Bank of England and facing extinction. But most of the banks on our list have suffered - even RBS and Barclays lost billions off their share price this year.

Construction - heavy
1 Balfour Beatty 63.0
2 Kier Group 61.5
3 Carillion 61.3
4 ROK Property Solutions 58.7
5 Morgan Sindall 58.6

Balfour Beatty's strong cash performance and bulging order books help to explain why the expensive collapse of MetroNet - in which it had a 20% stake - hasn't dislodged it from the top spot. CEO Ian Tyler expects tougher times ahead amid the credit squeeze. A new block at Tony Blair's alma mater, Fettes College, Edinburgh, was among Kier's prestigious contracts. The group posted an £18m rise in interim profits in June. If Carillion's £600m bid for Alfred McAlpine goes through, it will create the UK's second-largest contracting business. A near doubling in interim profits to £11.2m helped ROK climb two places, while orders of over £4bn took Morgan Sindall to fifth.

Building materials & merchants
1 Marshalls 65.1
2 SIG 62.7
3 Travis Perkins 59.9
4 BSS 59.2
5 Hanson* 55.9

The push for urban regeneration has helped Marshalls to top spot. First- half profits were up slightly to £27.4m at the Huddersfield-based maker of 'hard landscape products'. Roofing and insulation outfit SIG is up two places, after a hectic first half involving 22 acquisitions and a 30% rise in sales. Travis Perkins - dating back to 1797 - soars to third in sector on the back of an £18m rise in profits to June. Heating and plumbing specialist BSS won its biggest-ever contract, refurbishing 11,500 soldiers' rooms for the MoD. Hanson bids farewell to Most Admired; it was bought in May by Germany's HeidelbergCement for £8bn.

Construction - home
1 Berkeley Group 65.7
2 Persimmon 63.3
3 Wilson Bowden* 62.3
4 Bellway 59.2
5 Bovis Homes 58.8

Tony Pidgley's Berkeley Group must have happy shareholders, with another £600m returning to them by 2012. Profit is up 10% on last year, with the land bank growing to 30,128 plots, and new joint ventures formed with Saad Investments. Persimmon, top in our Quality of Management poll, invested £160m in land in the first half, recording a 10% increase in pre-tax profit. By February, its forward order book had 7,000 advance sales, worth £1.3bn. Wilson Bowden was devoured by Barratt Homes this year. The £2.13m deal makes Barratt the UK's largest housing group by volume. With more than three million new houses needed by 2020, this sector has it made.

1 Johnson Matthey 67.7
2 Victrex 55.9
3 ICI 55.2
4 Croda International 50.4
5 Elementis 48.1

Another platinum-coated performance puts catalytic converter specialist Johnson Matthey nearly 12 points clear of the field, after a 34% rise in revenues in '07 and an 18% rise in pre-tax profits. Booming demand for Victrex's 'Peek' engineering polymer led to the opening of a new £32m factory in Lancashire in October. ICI, listed on the first FT30 share index in 1935, was bought in August by Dutch multinational Akzo Nobel for £8bn. Speciality chemicals group Croda, maker of 'surfactants, speciality lipids and fatty amides', posted a 23% rise in interim profits to £34.7m. Elementis gained a new CEO, American David Dutris.

Engineering - aero & defence
1 Rolls-Royce 66.3
2 Cobham 62.8
3 BAE Systems 61.2
4 GKN 58.0
5 Meggitt 56.0

First-placed for the fourth consecutive year, Rolls-Royce left the '07 Paris Air Show with $15.1bn of business. The decision to build its first manufacturing plant abroad was unpopular, but a new BA contract worth £2.5bn and a 10% increase in group sales to £35.1bn made up for it. Cobham jumped to second, despite £27m foreign exchange costs and a £29m shortfall in revenues due to disposals. Yet it forked out £22m for Patriot Antennas. A potential fraud investigation hasn't thrown BAE Systems. New contracts include a £946m MoD order. First-half pre-tax earnings rose 17% to £700m, but the share price dipped in October when CEO Mike Turner resigned in odd circumstances.

Engineering & machinery
1 Rotork 63.4
2 IMI 63.3
3 Weir Group 61.1
4 Spirax Sarco Engineering 60.0
5 Bodycote International 56.1

Actuator manufacturer Rotork held on to top spot by dint of strong growth in the oil and gas sectors. Shares climbed more than 10%, after a 12% rise in revenues to £113.3m for the first six months, and in October, Peter France took over as COO. IMI announced that 40% of its production would be in low-cost economies by the end of '08, but it spent £5m on investigating kickbacks offered by its agents. Interim results showed revenue up by 7% to £781m. The Weir Group sold Glasgow-based Weir Pumps for £45m and bought SPM Flow Control of Texas for £328m. Half-year pre-tax profits were up 40%, to £45.4m.

Leisure & hotels
1 InterContinental Hotels 64.1
2 Carnival 61.7
3 First Choice* 61.3
4 Whitbread 61.0
5 Ladbrokes 56.9

It's as you were in the leisure category, with InterContinental romping home in top spot again, closely followed by Carnival and First Choice. The world's biggest hotel operator has had a hectic year, signing up another 55,000 rooms in the first half. It's also spending $1bn re-branding its Holiday Inn chain. Carnival, the $28bn cruise operator, suffered - like most of the travel industry - from the escalating cost of fuel, and also bid bon voyage to veteran CEO Bob Dickinson. But it still saw profits rise 12% in Q3. UK travel company First Choice tried to sell its package holiday division and ended up merging with TUI's travel division. So far, integration plans remain on track.

Food producers and processors
1 Unilever 64.5
2 Cadbury Schweppes 61.0
3 Associated British Foods 56.4
4 Premier Foods 56.2
5 Tate & Lyle 56.0

New Unilever chair Michael Treschow is overseeing modernisation, axing 20,000 jobs and selling off its US laundry business. So far, so good: pre-tax profits for Q3 rose 21% to £1.07bn. Still paying for last year's salmonella problems, belt-tightening Cadbury Schweppes is moving from its Mayfair HQ to Uxbridge. But sales grew by 6% in the first half of 2007, and hopes are high after demerging the confectionery and US beverages businesses. Burgeoning Associated British Foods seems unfazed by poor-performing Kingsmill. Adding Patak's and 20% of W Jordan & Son to its portfolio, ABF's year-end profits rose 10% to £613m.

1 BSkyB 72.0
2 WPP Group 64.0
3 Pearson 63.1
4 Reuters 61.3
5 Informa 60.6

Up 38 places from 2006, BSkyB came top in its sector on every criterion, and third overall. CEO James Murdoch continues to impress the City with his empire expansion, although his 17.9% share in ITV and the spat with Virgin Media are still causing problems. Third-quarter profits fell 27% to £121m as the broadcaster absorbed marketing costs and strong growth of its heavily subsidised Sky+ recorder. WPP, meanwhile, delivered underwhelming Q3 revenues, but it is still expected to hit this year's forecasts and have a good 2008. Pearson is on track to deliver an impressive performance across all its companies. It recently sold French financial daily Les Echos to LVMH for Eu240m.

Health & household
1 GlaxoSmithKline 64.3
2 AstraZeneca 60.6
3 Reckitt Benckiser 59.1
4 Smith & Nephew 58.5
5 Shire 54.8

In a bad year for pharma, GlaxoSmithKline is still on top but paying for poor sales of diabetes treatment Avandia. Third-quarter profits are down 7% to £1.88bn, with £700m annual cost cuts announced. CEO- in-waiting Andrew Witty has his work cut out. Astra-Zeneca is similarly beleaguered, announcing a 7% fall in Q3 profits, with patent battles looming over its top-sellers. Acquisitions costs related to the £15bn purchase of US biotech firm MedImmune have hit hard. At Reckitt Benckiser, year-to-date net revenue grew by 11% in the third quarter. Growth was driven by new products and a boom in Nurofen and Strepsils.

Oil, gas & extractive
1 BP 63.5
2 BHP Billiton 63.3
3 BG Group 63.0
4 Rio Tinto 60.7
5 Royal Dutch Shell 59.9

It has been a terrible year for BP, in a sector that faces considerable challenges. New-broom CEO Tony Hayward has the chance to flex his sweeping muscles. Already, he has settled various claims against BP's North American operations by agreeing to $380m in fines for various violations, including the 2005 Texas City oil refinery explosion. The board also needs to find a replacement for chairman Peter Sutherland, and to address BP's poor financial performance, including a 45% drop in profits for Q3. Mining giant BHP Billiton has been busy with a £73bn takeover bid for Rio Tinto, which, if successful, would create one of the world's biggest firms.

1 Admiral 62.9
2 Legal & General Group 61.0
3 St James's Place Capital 60.8
4 Aviva 60.7
5 Standard Life 59.3

Devastating floods provided the big headache for UK insurers this summer, while at boardroom level, closed life-fund manager Resolution prompted a three-way £5bn takeover battle between Friends Provident, Standard Life and Pearl Assurance. But this year's Most Admired steered clear of the scrap. Admiral Group profits leapt 26% in the first half as it opened offices in Spain and Germany. L&G took the runner-up spot, despite being unable to maintain its 2006 momentum. Unlike Admiral, the group is heavily dependent on the UK market, which is looking a lot less healthy than at this time last year.

1 Land Securities 63.5
2 British Land Co 61.1
3 Capital & Regional 58.0
4 Great Portland Estates 58.0
5 Derwent London 57.8

Top again, the UK's biggest property group, Land Securities, is about to undergo some radical restructuring, following pressure from investors for a break-up. New chairman Paul Myners (ex-M&S) is to divide the £7bn property giant into three businesses - outsourcing, retailing and a portfolio of London properties. This comes at a tricky time for the sector, with fears of a slowdown prompting a collapse in share prices. Many of the biggest property companies, such as Land Securities and British Land - which pulled out of the sale of its huge Sheffield shopping centre Meadowhall because of this summer's credit crunch - were down by about 20%.

Restaurants, pubs & breweries
1 Diageo 66.5
2 Mitchells & Butlers 60.6
3 SABMiller 60.5
4 JD Weatherspoon 57.7
5 Greene King 57.0

Diageo keeps the top spot, with operating profit up 8.7% to £2.2bn. Its ambitions are global, with a new distillery in Scotland, investment in baijiu, a traditional Chinese spirit, and a Guinness sales push in Africa. M&B, owner of All Bar One and O'Neills, has made up for the smoking ban by investing in pub food. It has worked: food sales have grown by 7% in established outlets. Revenue for the first half of 2007 leapt 12.2% to £995m. SABMiller, up two places this year, has joined forces with Canada's Molson Coors to take on the North American market. Last month, it paid £583m for Dutch rival Royal Grolsch. Half-year profits were up 21%.

Retailers (food & personal)
1 Marks & Spencer 76.3
2 Tesco 72.9
3 J Sainsbury 67.1
4 Next 58.7
5 Burberry Group 57.3

What further vindication does M&S's chief exec need? His kiss of life has done the trick - the revitalised M&S topped the vote in this sector in every category except one, as the Stuart Rose revolution delivered another 40% jump in profits in the first half of this year. Time now to consolidate and focus on expansion. Tesco and Sainsbury both escaped largely unscathed from a Competition Commission inquiry - presumably, after frantic lobbying. While Tesco focuses on expan- sion in the US, Sainsbury's ends the year it spent most of as an £11bn bid target with a triumphant 20% rise in profits to £232m for the half- year.

Retailers (general)
1 Carphone Warehouse 62.4
2 Halfords 55.1
3 Home Retail Group 54.1
4 DSG International 53.0
5 Kesa Electricals 52.9

Carphone Warehouse's revenues are up 18% to £2.1bn, fuelled by its AOL broadband business. More than a thousand US stores are to be opened over the next two years. Halfords started 2007 by cashing in on the cycling boom, and the company can thank the strong demand for satnav for helping it through a feeble summer. Year-end revenue was up 9.1% to £744m, and rumours of a takeover by Autobacs Seven have given shares a boost. Argos' persistent ad campaign is working. Sales were up 50% for the half-year, helping parent company Home Retail Group to a 34% increase in profits (to £136.1m).

Speciality & other finance
1 Icap 67.6
2 Man Group 64.2
3 3i 62.8
4 Cattles 56.6
5 Schroders 51.1

Was this the year when Britain's top financiers flew a little too close to the sun? Private equity took a particular bashing - although the appearance of FTSE-listed 3i proves PE isn't all bad. But in a field where Britain can claim to be a world leader, the financial whizz-kids are bound to come back for more, armed with new ways to make money. Most Admired was Michael Spencer's Icap - the inter-dealer broker expects annual profits to be 20% higher than last year. Second-placed Man Group also took the turmoil in its stride, recording a 21% profit hike. It made $1.7bn by floating its US brokerage arm in New York earlier this year.

Support services
1 Serco Group 70.4
2 Capita Group 66.8
3 Aggreko 64.8
4 Intertek 60.1
5 Bunzl 60.1

Serco was fourth Most Admired Company overall, winning one in two of its bids and with 84% of planned revenue for 2008 in the bag. Capita had to deal with a letter bomb in February, then with losing the high-profile London congestion-charge contract to IBM. But the group still posted pre-tax profits up 18% to £103.8m for the six months to June, shooting up from 53rd to eighth Most Admired overall. Aberdeen's Aggreko supplied temporary power to the Cricket World Cup and to the US army in Iraq. It capped a year of phenomenal growth by becoming Most Admired's highest new entry - an impressive 13th. Next major opportunity is juice for the Beijing Olympics.

1 Vodafone 57.6
2 BT Group 54.5
3 Cable & Wireless 43.5
4 Inmarsat 42.0
5 Vanco 39.9

One of the lowest-ever total scores for a Most Admired sector, suggesting an industry deep in the doldrums. Vodafone seemed unaffected: its $11bn swoop for Hutchison Essar gave it a major footing in India. Sir Christopher Bland stepped down after six years as BT chairman, but the revolution continued apace: BT expanded both its business services and consumer broadband presence. It continues to work on a £10bn revamp of the UK's sluggish broadband cables. A revival at C&W saw interim profits double to £166m, perhaps justifying its PE-style reforms, which removed the £20m cap for individual execs. New CEO John Pluthero isn't complaining.

1 easyJet 63.0
2 Stagecoach 57.6
3 British Airways 57.3
4 Go-Ahead Group 55.6
5 National Express 55.3

EasyJet soared despite rising fuel costs. Passenger numbers were up 14%, helped by European growth and a stronger presence at Gatwick. Stagecoach's impressive year was powered by profits at its South West Trains franchise, and at Virgin Trains, in which it has a 49% stake; new contracts included the East Midlands rail franchise. BA drew colourful headlines - a £350m bill for price-fixing, a crucifix row, and being named Europe's worst airline for losing luggage. But net debt dropped to £1.3bn, and pre-tax profit for the six months to September was a record £593m. Its pensions struggle looks settled, and it has $8.2bn-worth of new planes on the way.

1 Scottish & Southern Energy 59.1
2 National Grid 55.5
3 International Power 50.1
4 Centrica 50.1
5 Kelda 47.2

Challenging times for power providers, with punters being urged to cut consumption. But Scottish and Southern Energy drew a million new customers with its price-cutting measures. Pre-tax profits for the six months to September were up 42% to £664.7m. National Grid finally managed to seal its $7.3bn acquisition of KeySpan, the US utilities group, after 18 months of wrangling. It's now the second- largest US utilities company. Bush fires hit International Power's business in Australia, but operational profits for the nine months to September 30 were up 12%, at £634m. It bought Trinergy for £586m, becoming one of the world's biggest wind-power groups.

1. Sir Terry Leahy Tesco - 25.2%...
2. Stuart Rose M&S - 21.1%
3. Sir Fred Goodwin RBS - 5.7%

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