BT and banks join Railtrack in the league of companies we love to hate

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The Independent Online

Railtrack was the company the press loved to hate last year, according to a survey which shows it had the worst press coverage of any British company in the whole of 2001. Railtrack finished bottom of a table compiled by Presswatch which monitors company coverage in the national press.

Railtrack, which finished second bottom to Barclays Bank the previous year, had a nightmare 2001 with a falling share price, a damning report into the Hatfield rail disaster and widespread disruption to the network. The year ended with Stephen Byers shunting the wounded group into administration.

Railtrack only narrowly saved Marconi from bottom place. The precipitous collapse of Marconi's share price as the technology bubble burst led to a boardroom clearout and fears of the company failing altogether. Other strugglers included BT, which needed a rescue rights issue to reduce a £30bn debt mountain, and Equitable Life. Also in the bottom 10 is Marks & Spencer, though the start of a recovery in the final few months of the year bodes well for 2002, Presswatch said.

Top of the charts for the second year running is the supermarket group Tesco. Profits topped £1bn last year and the online shopping division,, also helped garner positive press coverage.

There were five banks in the top 10, though none of the major clearers featured. Online banks such as Smile and IF did well as newspapers continued to kick thehigh street players for offering relatively poor service.

BMW was one of the big turnaround stories of the year. It was ranked 10th having finished in the bottom 20 of 3,062 companies in 2000 when it pulled the plug on Rover.