One of the few cheering certainties about 2009 is that it should be a great deal easier to find a share that does respectably with the Footsie 100 starting at 4,290, where it closed on Christmas Eve than it was with the index at, 6,479 a year earlier.
Heartened by that thought – or just eager for the magnum of Champagne offered by Citigate, our sponsor – an impressive array of Birmingham and West Midlands stockbrokers, has once again line up for the Birmingham Post mid-winter share-tipping exercise.
Jumpy compliance officers please note: This is not earnest investment advice. Our entrants are trying to win a magnum of Champagne with a single share that beats the field in an altogether artificial, hopefully light-hearted, context from one Christmas Eve to the next.
We don’t allow portfolios, profit-taking, stop-losses, or dealing along the way. Successful bids are accepted, failed ones rejected. If push comes to shove we make up the rules as we go along.
Start then with last year’s winner RUPERT NEAL, who is shortly embarking on a new investment management project under the Quotidian banner. He won with the cautious choice of McBride, a maker of own-brand washing products.
Flush with that victory, he says: “For 2009 I will try to be a little bit brave and choose one of the infamous 2008 90 per cent club.
“So my tip is Royal Bank of Scotland, which I believe will avoid nationalisation and by the end of 2009 will be reflecting in its share price some optimism for the outlook in 2010.”
MARK WILLIS, a tantalisingly close runner-up last year, heads an impressive first entry from Smith & Williamson. This year he is challenging with De La Rue on the cheerful grounds that “the current economic outlook will encourage the printing of money”.
His colleague at S&W, SASHA PARMAR, suggests ETF OIL two month forward for direct exposure to any recovery in the oil price. If it does well that looks like one for the rules committee.
MATTHEW KIRKBRIDE picks ASOS, the internet fashion retailer, that gave Fyshe Horton Finney’s Peter Thompson third place last year.
SIMON WOOLF takes Trafficmaster for “good scope for recovery”.
DAVID SHAW, whose computer is once again keeping track of all our entries, backs Charter International, where he hopes capable and experienced management should make the most of any economic recovery.
Encouraged by a recent trading statement, CLAIRE FIRKINS opts for Whitbread.
MARK FACCHINO goes for Alliance Trust, hoping that its geographical asset allocation will leave it well positioned when markets recover confidence.
MARK SEWELL takes Tullow Oil to be involved in consolidation in oil exploration and production and for its African interests.
SIMON ROBINSON pins his hopes on Ruffer Investment Trust, a specialist trust whose flexibility should deliver a decent return “irrespective of market conditions”.
ADRIAN TAYLOR’s share is Amec, “a quality infrastructure player in a difficult economic environment”.
FRANK WAYT has BHP Billiton as a “quality play” in resources.
JOHN BIRKENSHAW picks Weir as “already depressed, but a good infrastructure story”.
ALEX REYNOLDS takes Northgate as “a bit of a flier”, but a severely undervalued car and vehicle hire outfit.
SIMON PAGE has the oil services company Wood Group to benefit from any recovery in the oil price.
Finally at S&W, JOHN HARROP suggests the rail infrastructure consultants Scott Wilson, where a hard-hit share price gives scope for recovery.
Next to Fyshe Horton Finney, the most prolific source of past winners of this event, PETER THOMPSON was one of the three contenders to be in profit in 2008. This time his share is Shire Pharmaceuticals, Britain’s third largest pharma company, specialising in research, development and marketing of drugs for rare genetic diseases.
DAVID WILLIAMS recommends Frontera Resources. Last year the shares had doubled by May, but then collapsed with the oil price. David is hoping for dearer oil.
JONATHAN BROWN is looking to former ICI executives to turn round Rentokil Initial, or, if they don’t, a bid.
PETER KNOWLES, one of our few two-times winners, is sticking with Redhall, an industrial engineering company, providing, among other things, services to nuclear power.
PETER HOLLINS, another previous winner, is sticking with Regal Petroleum for a second year, hoping that the oil price recovers.
CLIVE DUCKITT picks 3i, whose shares fell by some 75 per cent last year, reflecting its debt burden and fears that small companies are vulnerable to a recession. “Hopefully the fall has been overdone,” he says.
On to Brewin Dolphin. They failed to enter last year and at one time we wondered if they should not get a prize for not losing a single penny.
STEPHEN JONES confesses that their absence was an oversight, not masterly prudence. His share for 2009 is Accident Exchange, “difficult to value” in uncertain times, but a good business where managers have a sizeable vested interest. “A risky one that could double if markets settle,” he says.
GORDIE HOUSTON picks Synchronica, a mobile and e-mail specialist with technology that is beginning to gain traction, especially in developing nations, allowing any mobile phone to receive and send e-mails.
PAUL FIELDING has Babcock & Brown Public Partnerships, an investment trust specialising in private finance initiatives and public private partnership projects, whose shares are depressed by troubles in Australia. “Poor performance by association more than anything else,” he says. “In addition they offer a yield of around six per cent.”
ADAM WILKINS takes BG, the exploration wing of the former British Gas. “Just a small increase in energy prices should produce good results,” he says.