Central Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland)

After falling to third place last year, ING shoots back up to the top spot.

Andrzej Knigawka & team ING

second team György Oláh & team UniCredit

third team Rafal Wiatr & team Citi

After falling to third place last year, ING shoots back up to the top spot. This year the eight-member squad, based in Budapest, London and Warsaw, is led solely by Andrzej Knigawka, 36, following the departure of Janos Kocsi. “Their experience with the banking sector was a big help when the markets blew up,” explains one portfolio manager. The team upgraded Bank Handlowy w Warszawie to buy in July, at 51.95 Polish złoty, largely on valuation. The Poland-based financial firm’s stock had shot up 45.1 percent, to Zł75.40, by late January, outpacing Poland’s broad market by 26.5 points.

Down a notch to second place is the nine-strong UniCredit team guided by György Oláh. The analysts, who operate out of offices in Budapest, London, Prague and Warsaw, are “close to the action, with a local presence” and “give good, solid coverage,” clients say. In July the team upgraded Hungary’s MOL Magyar Olaj- és Gázipari from hold to buy, at 11,240 forints, on the oil and gas producer’s “interesting exploration projects.” The stock had rocketed 67.2 percent, to 18,790 forints, by mid-January, when it was downgraded to hold, on valuation. Since then it has mirrored the 2.9 percent decline of Hungary’s oil, gas and consumable fuels sector, through the end of January.

The Citi quintet under Rafal Wiatr advances from runner-up to third. The London- and Warsaw-based researchers initiated coverage on Zakłady Azotowe Puławy in February 2009 with a buy recommendation, at Zł47, arguing that the Poland-based fertilizer manufacturer’s valuation was low given its strong cash position. In June, after the stock had risen 86 percent, to Zł87.40, the analysts downgraded it to hold, on valuation. Since then it slipped 10.2 percent, to Zł78.50, through January.

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