Winners and losers: Rio Tinto digs in to lead mining sector in 2007

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It was the year of the miners, with none more impressive on the top tier than Rio Tinto. The dual-listed giant stormed up 95.6 per cent in 2007 to finish at 5,317p leaving its rivals floundering in its wake.

The whole sector has lifted off the back of storming commodity prices, especially in iron ore, lead, copper and coal. Rio's shares were then given the added push of a $141bn (71bn) approach from its rival BHP Billiton, the second largest offer ever. BHP was the sixth highest riser, up 65 per cent to 1,546p.

Rio technically was not as good a performer as the engineering services group Amec, which went through a restructuring overhaul, but the stock can hardly be called one of the FTSE 100's best performers of the year as it was only promoted on Christmas Eve. The same goes for Cairn Energy, which returned to the top tier for the last four sessions of 2007, only nine months after its relegation. The group, bolstered by rising oil prices and consolidation talk, ended the year 70.2 per cent higher at 3,074p.

In a related sector, but more entrenched among the big boys, BG Group performed strongly. It started rising in August on news of stake-building by a Chinese state fund, followed by takeover interest from rivals including Exxon and Shell. Recently the group was given a further fillip after a major oil discovery off the coast of Brazil.

The interdealer broker Icap also had a stellar year, rising 51.8 per cent to 726.5p. The stock was protected from the volatile markets as it makes its money from trading whet-her the direction is up or down.

The poorest blue-chip performers were all housebuilders as sentiment turned against the sector. Taylor Wimpey was the worst, down 52 per cent to 203.25p, followed by Persimmon, down 47.6 per cent at 800p. Barratt Developments, the lowest with a 63 per cent decline, fell into the FTSE 250 on 24 Dec-ember so, again technic-ally, it doesn't count.

The banks also had a torrid year, with Alliance & Leicester the worst, down 43 per cent to 648p. Northern Rock would have been the stand-out loser, had it not also been relegated from the FTSE 100 last week. The beleaguered lender lost 93 per cent of its value, ending the year at 84p.

Back on the top tier, British Airways was the fifth worst stock perfor-mer as rising oil prices, bad press and complaints of overcrowding at Heath-row, its main hub, smashed its value 41.3 per cent to 309.75p.

The year had many retailers weeping, because of the summer washout and the slump in consumer confidence brought on by higher interest rates and the credit crunch. Kingfisher was the worst hit, down 39.0 per cent to 145.6p.

The clothing retailer Debenhams performed badly on the mid tier, as its stock spiralled almost 58 per cent to 80.25p. A fellow struggler was New Star Asset Management, the company which recently revealed a sharp decline in the value of its property fund, which contributed to its shares losing more than 55 per cent.

On the upside, top of the FTSE 250 risers, which didn't make the last-gasp break into top tier, was QXL Ricardo. The internet auction house, now called Tradus, agreed to a 946m takeover by Nas-pers in December.

Game Group was another solid riser after it sealed the takeover of its rival Gamestation and announ-ced on Monday that its full-year results would beat expectations. It closed 120 per cent higher at 250p.

Elsewhere, it proved a strong year for Southern Cross Healthcare, the UK's largest care home services provider in terms of the number of beds. It completed 10 acquisitions over the year, giving it 8 per cent of the market, and is expec-ted to continue its growth strategy this year. In 2007, it rose 71 per cent to 530p.

Oil-related stocks feat-ured at both ends of the alternative investment market. At the top of the table, Lamprell, which supports the onshore and offshore oil industry in the Arabian Gulf, providing upgrade, refurbishment and construction services, saw its stock soar to 430p in 2007, up more than 77 per cent.

Afren, the independent oil and gas company, also had a good year. The company, led by the former Opec secretary general Rilwanu Lukman, watched its share price swell to 105.25p, up almost 85 per cent since last January. Afren should have a good year ahead as well the company expects to start producing up to 20,000 barrels of oil per day from its existing portfolio while pursuing its strategy of developing low-cost assets and exploration opportunities in west Africa.

Shares in the southern Sudan-based White Nile slumped, on the other hand, dropping to 39.25p after losing more than 66 per cent in 2007. The company, which is led by the former England cricketer Phil Edmonds, has had a rough ride recently, owing to uncertainty regarding oil blocks in southern Sudan. First Calgary Pet-roleum, which ended the year at 140p, down more than 53 per cent, joined White Nile in the list of the year's most disappointing AIM stocks.

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