With Reuter's one-place jump to the top of the table the media sector confirms its status as the best performing of all 18 industry categories. Seven of the sector's nine companies recorded RSW scores well above the median, while average return on equity edged up from 26% to 28% (as against a fall from 17% to 14% for the 400 as a whole). Indeed, Bertelsmann's return of 53.5% proved the highest in the entire list, though in the overall analysis its performance was hindered by low asset growth. Reuters' advance was helped by both strong sales of Instinet, its automated equity dealing system, and last autumn's collapse in the value of sterling. Were it not for Reuters' seemingly prudent policy of hedging against movements on the foreign exchanges, profits would have been higher still. With the exception of Bertelsmann and Polygram, who traded second and third places, the trend in the rest of the sector was downward. Pearson, which posted its third consecutive year of falling profits, recorded the heaviest slide, dropping from 48 to 114. The one new entrant to the sector is now also its largest, France's Matra-Hachette, a combination of a cash-rich defence contractor (last year's 212) and the indebted publisher of Elle magazine (formerly 397). Reed International, though now merged with Holland's Elsevier,is listed separately, slipping back from 103 to 140.
Upheaval among the engineers