Oil analyst tops Extel performance survey: Heather Connon on the listing that they love to dimiss publicly but privately pore over

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THE waiting is over. The results of the City's most keenly followed survey of investment analysts were finally published yesterday confirming SG Warburg in pole position for the fourth year running.

Its share of the votes, however, was cut from 14.44 to 12.53 per cent. NatWest Securities climbed to second place, although its share of the vote was little changed on the 10.48 per cent that put it in third place last time. Barclays de Zoete Wedd clawed its way up to third place from 5th with an increase from 8.55 to 10.15 per cent.

Some firms dismissively reject the Extel survey - the 21st to be conducted - claiming that their main aim is to satisfy their clients, not score in the rankings. Privately, however, it is closely watched. Top-ranking analysts can command the top jobs with salary and bonus packages to go with them worth up to pounds 500,000 a year. Some of the top houses will not consider employing those outside the top three.

Fergus MacLeod, head of the team covering integrated oil companies at NatWest Securities, should have no problem. He was this year's all-star analyst, attracting the most votes overall, leaping from 20th last year.

He displaced Patrick Wellington, who topped the league last year with his coverage of telecommunications for NatWest Securities. As if to confirm the benefits of scoring well, he is now also head of UK reseach for the firm. He has, however, slipped to second place in his sector, behind Robert Millington and his team at BZW.

Second-best on the list was John Spicer, brewing analyst at Warburg, up from 21st last time. That may partly reflect the split of his sector into two - a rationalisation which worked the other way for some analysts.

David Ireland, of Hoare Govett, dropped from third to eighth place as his conglomerates and other industrial materials sectors were amalgamated.

The best single piece of research was by Paul Walton, UK equity market analyst at James Capel. That was not enough to elevate him from fourth place in his sector, however, and the top slot was taken by Philip Wolstencroft and Peter Lyon at Smith New Court.

Poaching the top-rated analyst may not always be a good move. In electricity, for example, Alistair Buchanan dropped from first to fourth place as he moved from Smith New Court to BZW. Neil Blackley, media analyst, lost almost two-thirds of his votes as he left James Capel for Goldman Sachs, slipping into fourth place.

In stores, the recently-created team of Charles Nichols and Tony Shiret moved up from three to one, displacing John Richards and his team at County NatWest.

Institutional investors, who vote for the rankings, still complain they get too much material - 80 per cent would be happy with a third less. They also ask for more fundamental research - most believe that less than half the research they recieve satisfies this requirement and they are increasingly carrying out their own.