SBC Warburg keeps the City's top spot

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The Independent Online

Financial Editor

SBC Warburg remains the top stockbroker for research as well as being the most respected bank for corporate finance advice in the eyes of big business, according to the latest annual survey conducted by Consensus Research. It is the fifth year that Warburg, taken over last year by SBC, has been voted top for research by finance directors and corporate treasurers of the UK's largest publicly quoted companies. The merchant banking arm is voted the best corporate finance adviser for the ninth consecutive year, according to the survey published yesterday.

The rise of NatWest Securities in City estimation is reflected in its strong second-place showing, up from fifth in 1994. The overall ranking of broking houses for research is based on a total of individual analysts' ratings across all the main industrial sectors. Merrill Lynch, now benefiting from its acquisition last year of one of Britain's leading brokers, Smith New Court, and UBS both improved two places to move into the top five.

Kleinwort Benson, now part of the Dresdner Bank group, slipped to the third spot, but the biggest drop was recorded by BZW, which fell four to seventh place. Seven of the top 10 houses in the table are now owned by European or US banks and investment banks.

There is little change among the rating of the best banks offering corporate finance expertise. Schroders holds onto its second place behind Warburgs, with Kleinwort Benson third, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell fourth and Goldman Sachs moving up to fifth. Cazenove displaces SBC Warburg from the number one spot of top stockbroker for corporate finance advice.

Among the individual sector winners, Charles Lambert at Merrill Lynch retains the top position in chemicals for the seventh year in succession, while Roger Moore at SBC Warburg is voted best property analyst for the third time, as is Fergus McLeod for oil and gas at NatWest Securities. Other sector winners who hold their top rankings are SBC Warburg's breweries analyst John Spicer and food producers analyst Mark Duffy, and HSBC James Capel's engineering analyst Ewan Fraser.

The top UK companies remain relatively positive about the quality of analysis and research on themselves and their sectors. More than 40 per cent said it had improved over the past year on the brokers' research side. The respondents said analysts show a better understanding of their management and particularly their accounting policies than has been the case in recent years.