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Energy: Oil & Gas Exploration & Production

Benjamin Dell steps up one notch to claim his first No. 1 finish. A former geologist with British Petroleum who joined Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in 2005, Dell “performs proprietary and thoughtful research,” says one supporter.

Benjamin Dell

Benjamin Dell

Sanford C. Bernstein

SECOND TEAM

William Featherston UBS

THIRD TEAM

Shannon Nome Deutsche

RUNNERS-UP

Joseph Allman JPMorgan ; Thomas Driscoll Barclays ; Brian Singer Goldman Sachs ; Jonathan Wolff Credit Suisse

Benjamin Dell steps up one notch to claim his first No. 1 finish. A former geologist with British Petroleum who joined Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in 2005, Dell “performs proprietary and thoughtful research,” says one supporter. The 31-year-old analyst ­predicted that falling oil prices would lead to margin pressure on Murphy Oil Corp., which he down­graded to sell in May, at $95.35. By mid-­September the share price of the El Dorado, ­­Arkansas–based company had sunk 26.4 percent, to $70.17, compared with the sector’s 31.9 percent decline. Dell earned a master’s degree in earth sciences from Oxford University’s St. Peter’s College in 1998. William Featherston, who leaps from ­runner-up to second place, “is one of the most thorough, hard-­working analysts covering his industries,” declares one ­money man­ager. The UBS researcher elevated Southwestern Energy Co. to his top pick in June 2007, at a split-­adjusted $22.25, and has maintained that position ­ever since, citing the Houston-­based com­pany’s strong growth potential. The stock had soared 118.8 percent, to $48.69, one year ­later before being dragged down by falling oil prices. Even so, through mid-­September 2008 it was up 47.4 percent since Featherston’s upgrade. Shannon ­Nome of Deutsche Bank Securities debuts in third. “She tends to think outside the box and is not afraid to be a contrarian when warranted,” says one booster. Nome has held Chesa­peake Energy Corp. as her top pick since July 2006, owing to the Oklahoma ­City–based outfit’s strong cash flow. In the 12 months ended mid-­September, the stock gained 22.4 ­percent.

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