For a third consecutive year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch claims first place. From their London headquarters the three researchers — co-led by Joel Spungin, 36, and Mark Manduca, 31 — monitor 24 regional transport companies. In the opinion of one British portfolio manager, they demonstrate “unparalleled knowledge and commitment — and are harder working than anybody else in the sector.” One Portugal-based buy-sider adds that “they are my first contact, always keen to chat about the sector, and their views pay out.” The team’s April upgrade of Go-Ahead Group proved to be a successful call from the past year. Citing the British public transit provider’s profitable bus business and imminent completion of the Thames Programme rail service, the analysts boosted Go-Ahead from underperform to buy. Sure enough, by the end of last month, the stock had advanced by 36.2 percent, to 2,477p, and bested the sector by 29.4 percentage points. The analysts have also recently turned positive on Netherlands-based package courier TNT Express. Until last month they had maintained their negative position on the company, restating their underperform rating in July, for example, because they believed that management was spending too much to bolster the company’s weak competitive position, squeezing its free-cash generation. By mid-January, however, the researchers had become convinced that investors were undervaluing the quality of the executive team brought on to carry out the ongoing turnaround, so they upgraded the stock to buy. TNT Express was then down 14.3 percent since July, trading at €5.44 and trailing the broader market by 18.1 percentage points. It closed last month at €5.82. “They respond to requests quickly and even follow up with specific details of pricing, supply and demand, and other market dynamics,” marvels another backer.