Mulberry's fashion statement keeps our top 10 shares in profit

Some high-end retail therapy and Tesco's turnaround has helped The Independent's annual tips offset losses from falling oil prices

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The Independent’s 10 shares to follow feature has regularly proved to be far better value than the vast majority of horribly expensive active fund managers.

At least until this year.

This year we selected a “turnaround 10”, made up of a group of companies on their downers which we felt could roar back – although we included a couple of safety-first picks in case it all went wrong. In one notable case it has gone badly wrong, dragging the whole portfolio down.

We’re still up overall. In fact, seven out of our 10 tips are in positive territory. But one of the three in the red is deeply, deeply in the red.

Traditionally we update at Easter, and I’ll run through them in the order in which we selected them as 2015 dawned. The bad news comes just over halfway through.

Our first selection this year was Partnership Assurance, the choice of tipster extraordinaire Jamie Dunkley, who correctly predicted Man Group’s turnaround in 2014. Our selection was a buyer at 139.5p.

The group’s specialism, the provision of pension annuities to people with medical issues, had been badly hit by the Chancellor telling people they didn’t have to take an annuities out any longer with their pension savings.

Partnership lost half its value overnight, and unfortunately, it’s still struggling. While Deutsche Bank has raised its price target, sentiment wasn’t helped by the former chairman Ian Owen – who still sits on the board – selling a big chunk of shares, although it was stressed at the time that the disposal was for “personal financial reasons” rather than a lack of faith in the company.

With the annuity market still in some turmoil – people who already have them will be able to cash out and there’s talk of seeing up a trading facility – the shares have been treading water while people wait to see how it all plays out in the coming months.

On the plus side, the  company continues to look at new products and new markets (such as the United States), and there is plenty of time for the shares to pick up from the 140p they closed at ahead of the Easter break.  Of course, there have also been some big corporate beneficiaries from the Chancelllor’s reforms to our personal finances. Take Hargreaves Lansdown.

The company, which we tipped at 1012p, provides financial advice, but also acts as a type of investment supermarket for those happy to manage their own finances. The Chancellor taking savings out of tax, and allowing people to invest their pension savings as they please, is catnip to a firm like HL, which had a difficult 2014 as a result of regulatory reforms to the retail investment market.

The shares were still boasting a fairly frothy valuation when we tipped them, but they’re even frothier now  at  1160p.

Tesco is enjoying an even frothier start to 2015 and it’s our best buy to date. New chief executive Dave Lewis got the City onside by promising to cut costs and close unprofitable stores. The long decline in sales is also being arrested, even though the trading environment remains very tough. The revival in the share price was under way before we tipped it at 189p but the stock has kicked on up to 244.1p.

Serco, tipped at 160.7p, made the cut over my own doubts because it was a favourite of two of my colleagues. The shares began the year well but an ugly set of results and a rights issue knocked the stuffing out of them. At 144.6p, it’s looking like I should have gone with my first instincts and binned the idea.

But Serco is positively flying when compared to Tullow. This has dragged an otherwise decent performance down.  We expected to see something of a recovery in the oil price this year, and that hasn’t happened so far. The oil explorer has also reported its first loss in 15 years and suspended  its final dividend. Its credit  rating has been cut and, if that lot wasn’t enough, there have been worries about one of its big hopes. We tipped at 414p. The shares are down to 284.3p. File under “oops”.

Mulberry, fresh from a string of profit warnings, is a little cheerier showing a modest but still pleasing gain at 870p compared to where we tipped it (825p). It can’t hurt that the Duchess of Cambridge likes one of its £1,500 fuchsia coats so much she’s been photographed wearing it twice. Yes, that apparently is a big deal in fashion circles.

We’re rather appalled at the sexism: does anyone notice if her husband wears the same suit twice? Still, if it means a few more people are rich and daft enough to spend that much on a coat it’ll help Mulberry’s bottom line and our 10 to follow. So hooray!

Ladbrokes also spent last year warning about profits not living up to expectations. We tipped at 110.5p. The shares have since fallen to 102.4p.

The long search for a new chief executive ended with the appointment of Jim Mullen, director of Ladbrokes Digital since the end of 2013, rather than the big name some had been hoping for. So the shares are only going to move on results. Oh dear.

Happily, we hedged with a few safer bets, one of which has been Secure Trust Bank, tipped at 2835.5p. Fresh from a record set of results, the challenger bank’s shares have come off a bit recently. They’re still at 2893, but we could do with some more good numbers.

AstraZeneca, the drugs giant tipped at 4555.5 has  also ticked up, although not  by much. It’s at 4625p.  Aberdeen Asset Management (432.2p) however, has done the business. The fund manager has benefitted from rising markets, as fund managers usually do, and with the shares at 467.6, this was one of our better bets.

Our three final safety-first tips have been nearly as  loyal as a St Bernard. But  we could really do with some of our dogs barking as loud  as pedigree Tesco, especially with Tullow stuck at the  vets.

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