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Industries – Consumer/Discretionary: First

Paul Steegers
& team
Bank of America
Merrill Lynch
"Few analysts can match his experience in the region."

Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s six-member squad under Paul Steegers dominates consumer stocks, rising one rung to top this sector and jumping from third to take the crown in Consumer/Nondiscretionary. With analysts in Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates reporting on 22 stocks across both sectors, the crew “covers all the bases,” declares one fund manager. The team’s outlook is mixed: positive on Russia and Saudi Arabia, less so on other regions. Recommendations include Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair & Co., on the Saudi Arabia–based fashion retailer’s aggressive expansion strategy and strong growth prospects. The researchers are cautious on South Africa, despite its exposure to growth in neighboring countries, but are nonetheless bullish on Mr Price Group, “an apparel retailer with a predominantly cash-based business model and hence less exposure to the credit cycle,” says Steegers, 42. “The group has just published excellent results, which saw earnings per share and dividends per share rise by 26 percent and 27 percent, respectively [for the year through March]. The outlook remains positive, and the group has a very strong balance sheet.” Steegers, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at South Africa’s University of Cape Town and a master’s in the same subject at the University of London, worked as a buy-side analyst and fund manager at London-based Mercury Asset Management, which Merrill Lynch acquired in 1997. He moved to the sell side in 2000. — Pam Baker

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