Paxman hands out prizes at Extel analysts' awards

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The Independent Online
THE AWARDS ceremony for the Primark Extel Survey 1999 went with more than its usual swing this year, thanks to the slick presentational skills of Extel's new American owners, Primark, a giant financial information company.

In place of tedious lectures by City worthies, television personality Jeremy Paxman led a sparkling team of presenters at the Guildhall in London. Mr Paxman's old boss at the BBC, Michael Grade, now chief executive officer at First Leisure, presented the top prize to the Leading Pan-European Brokerage Firm, Merrill Lynch.

Mr Paxman introduced Mr Grade as "the winner of the Jerry Springer lookalike contest". Mr Grade retaliated by ordering Mr Paxman to "get on with it."

The packed Guildhall heard that although Merrill Lynch secured a smaller percentage of total weighted votes than last year, when it was also top, it still had a narrow lead over its nearest rival, Warburg Dillon Read.

CSFB is forging ahead, building on last year's fifth place. This time, CSFB progressed to third in the overall pan-European ranking. There were no surprises from Fergus MacLeod, apart from the fact that the Oil analyst from BTAlex.Brown was unavailable to pick up his Leading Individual Analyst prize for an unprecedented sixth year running.

Merrill Lynch made it the double when its fully owned subsidiary, Mercury Asset Management (MAM), won Leading Fund Management Firm. MAM came second last year. Schroder Investment Management came second this time, followed by Fidelity and then Prudential Portfolio Managers.

Merrill Lynch also won the prize for Leading Brokers Analyst Firm, nominated by Europe's 300 biggest companies. The prize was presented by John Foulds, chairman of Halifax. Mr Foulds noted Halifax had only been floated two years previously. He recalled, to guffaws: "We were led down like lambs to London to be sheared," adding sternly, "Yorkshire is not an emerging market".

Chris Sharples, chairman of GNI, kept up the hilarity, saying that he was "put off slightly" by the presence of Mr Paxman, following Mr Paxman's treatment of Dr Henry Kissinger on a recent radio interview, when Dr Kissinger stormed off. Mr Paxman said: "You can walk off if you want to." The crowd loved it.

Mr Sharples presented the prize for leading specialist salesperson to Mark Roberts of Schroder Securities. Guy Froud of HSBC came second and Andrew Hollingsworth of Merrill Lynch came third. Gavin Casey, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, presented the prize for "All Stars" Analyst Team, to BT Alex.Brown for their integrated oil team. Second was Warburg Dillon Read with their oil team, followed by CSFB's pharmaceuticals team.