Halifax adds best to biggest as C&G falls to second place

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HALIFAX Building Society has toppled Cheltenham & Gloucester as Britain's best-performing society and looks set to retain its lead for years, according to UBS, the investment house.

John Wriglesworth, UBS's building society analyst, said: 'For the first time, biggest is best. Halifax has come up from tenth place in 1990 and is now out in front.

'It has the lowest cost/income ratio, a huge market share, fantastic branding and capital strength. It will be tough for anyone to beat Halifax in future years.'

The seventh annual UBS survey grades societies on measures including profitability, capital strength and market share. C&G has been the most consistent performer since the survey began, enjoying the top slot for years. This time it came joint second with Yorkshire, followed by Northern Rock and Leeds Permanent.

The latter three were all prime candidates for takeover by banks or insurance companies, because of their attractive performance, Mr Wriglesworth said. Halifax was too big for anyone to swallow.

Those at the bottom of the table are also prime targets because of their affordability, according to Mr Wriglesworth. Bottom were Leeds & Holbeck at 18th, Bristol & West 19th and Skipton 20th.

Abbey National, which demutualised in 1989 to become a bank, is not included in the survey, but judged on the same basis it would have been third in 1990, ninth in 1992 and tenth in 1993.