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Share Challenge: Amateurs knock professional investor into third place in our share challenge

With the end of the contest looming, the amateurs are knocking the socks off the City expert in our annual Share Challenge competition. The Fairer Shares Investment Club has powered ahead of its competitors with profits of 9.1 per cent, followed by the student team with profits of 2.5 per cent. In third place is City asset manager James Bevan, with a loss of 6.8 per cent.

With four months to go, the Fairer Shares Club, which was formed by staff in John Lewis department store in Oxford Street, London, is well-positioned to claim the winner-takes-all cash prize of £2,000, sponsored by Abbey Sharedealers. Despite the volatile market last month, the club managed to avoid any slumping shares and is now well ahead of the FTSE All Share index, which is up 3.3 per cent since the competition began last April.

Earlier this year, team leader Paul Dolman-Darrall predicted the market would continue to reward safer shares over the coming months, especially in defensive sectors such as utility companies. His forecast turned out to be right. By cramming their portfolio full of large-cap favourites including United Utilities and Scottish & Southern Energy, the club has steadily pulled ahead of their competitors.

Scottish & Southern Energy is the club's best performing share, up 29 per cent since the team bought it in June. The power giant's shares have performed strongly on the back of rising energy prices and a recent announcement that the company would move into the water sector for the first time.

Meanwhile, the school students from Moat Community College in Leicester, who were leading the contest earlier in the year, are struggling to catch up with their amateur rivals.

Yet the competitor with the most to lose is James Bevan, a City veteran with more than 18 years' experience in the stock market. Bevan recently left the post of chief investment officer at banking giant Abbey to devote his energies to the charitable investment sector. He is now chief investment officer of CCLA, one of the largest asset managers for charitable funds in the UK.

Only time will tell if Bevan can catch the kids and the investment club before the contest ends in April 2007. Time, however, is running out.