It's tough out there - but our tipsters turn a profit

High-energy growth by a company making solar panels has helped the 'IoS' portfolio beat the bear market
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The Independent Online

Happily, though, the IoS 2006 portfolio still outperformed the market. If you had invested £100 in a fund tracking the All-Share, you would now have just £104.24. But £100 in our portfolio, at this half-year stage, would be worth £109.55 before tax and fees.


It may not be the break-up that we were tempted by in January, but efforts by Whitbread's chief executive, Alan Parker, to offload underperforming businesses are having much the same effect on the leisure group.

First to go were 46 Marriott hotels. Now the company is flogging 235 Brewers Fayre and Beefeater pub-restaurants, which could fetch £400m. Whitbread is also reviewing the TGI Friday's and Pizza Hut chains, both struggling on the high street.

The focus now is on Costa Coffee, which is expanding into China; Premier Travel Inn, where it hopes to add another 100 budget hotels, and David Lloyd Leisure. The result is a share price already up 21 per cent at 1,166p.


Green capitalists have long claimed that the environment can be profitable. Romag is the proof. A maker of reinforced windows for armoured cars, it has branched out into photovoltaic glass - solar-power panels - in partnership with BP Solar. Among its customers are the Eden Project in Cornwall and the Science Museum in London.

New office blocks in London must, since May, generate 20 per cent of their power from renewables. To cope with this rising demand, the company returned to the market last month with a £2.63m placing to help it expand its factory in Consett, County Durham.

With the shares already up 19.6 per cent at 119p, Romag is well placed to put on a late spurt.


Investors were pleasantly surprised when Compass sold SSP, its travel concession catering operation, for £1.8bn - £400m more than was expected. They were even happier with a £500m share buy-back.

Other news that helped Compass shares jump 18.9 per cent, to close on Friday at 262.25p, included the appointment of a new chief executive, Richard Cousins.

The world's largest caterer is still overshadowed by legal claims for up to $1bn (£550m) concerning irregularities in the bidding for a $62m UN contract to feed 15,000 peacekeepers in Liberia. But an investigation carried out on behalf of the company by City law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, pinned the blame on rogue managers, leaving Compass quietly confident it can beat the rap.

Taylor Nelson Sofres

The world's second-largest market research firm bills itself as "the sixth sense of business". Unfortunately, our telepathic sense hasn't matched up. We correctly predicted growth in Asian markets would offset a fall in demand for market research in the UK and US, but that wasn't enough for investors. The shares closed on Friday at 233p, up just 3.7 per cent.

All is not lost, however. The company's new chief executive, David Lowden, reported a 21 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits, and TNS is countering stiff competition at the low end of the market - the gathering of raw data - with higher-value services such as analysis and advice.

Royal Bank of Scotland

RBS shares briefly topped 1,900p in March - boosted by a £1bn share buy-back and a 25 per cent dividend increase - only to tumble back in May. They closed on Friday at 1,778p, up just 1.3 per cent.

Despite this, we're still happy to be holding the bank's stock. The half-year results, out next month, are expected to show steady organic growth, led by the investment banking business. The share price is being held back by fears that the chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, could return to his acquisitive ways after spending £33bn turning RBS into a global banking giant. Our forecast in January depended on him quitting. This he has not done, but there's still time before the end of the year.


And finally, a lesson in how not to pick stocks. Back in January, Albert Nissé, the youngest son of former IoS business editor Jason Nissé, grabbed a crayon and drew a line through Compel, a small IT group specialising in various "solutions".

The results have been, perhaps unsurprisingly, rather disappointing. The company has announced that sales are flat and profits are down and the shares, closing on Friday at 83p, are now worth 7.3 per cent less.