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The prospects for Scotland's top 10 companies

Investors in Scotland's biggest companies will be hoping for better fortunes in 2014 after their shares struggled to keep pace with the flying Footsie last year.

No fewer than six of our 10 biggest businesses saw their valuations lag well behind the near 14% rise recorded by the benchmark FTSE 100 share index with SSE, Wood Group and Premier all recording losses.

A rare exception was provided by Aberdeen Asset Management, which soared more than 45% after seeing its assets under management boosted by both acquisitions - including Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, from Lloyds Banking Group - and the revival in most global stock markets. Stagecoach, Weir and Royal Bank of Scotland also managed useful gains.

The overall performance left many financial experts with egg on their faces, with a majority of stockbrokers adopting a neutral stance to RBS, AAM and SSE at the start of 2013.

The other seven shares were all tipped as "buys", which means the brokers were expecting growth of 10% or more.

It was an occasion when a novice investor choosing stocks with a pin could have enjoyed better returns.

That said, AAM is among the hottest of tips from these experts for this year with no fewer than 10 analysts recommending the shares as a strong buy in a poll conducted by Digital Look.

A major attraction is the group's £660 million purchase of Swip from Lloyds, which will be completed early this year with an issue of shares at 420p each, compared with the present 500p.

Only oil and gas exploration companies Premier and Cairn have more enthusiastic fans at the moment, with 15 brokers suggesting shares in both companies are now a strong buy after recent disappointments.

They may well be right on this occasion, though Premier enjoyed similar support at the start of 2013 before the shares went into reverse after it had production problems in the North Sea.

Much depends on the price of oil. Most industry experts believe increased United States production could peg back global prices this year, although that could change rapidly with the political situation in the Middle East.

Hopes for better news from the oil sector have also seen a majority of brokers tipping Wood Group after last year's disappointments. Engineer Weir Group also has buying support from nine City experts.

However, most followers remain lukewarm on temporary power supplier Aggreko amid concerns over the slowdown in emerging markets and a squeeze in profit margins. The experts are also neutral about insurance giant Standard Life despite improved prospects for asset valuations.

Analysts are also sitting on the fence over stock market prospects for RBS, which attracted further criticism over the holiday period with news of a £1.5 million deferred "golden hello" share package for new chief executive Ross McEwan after three months in the job.

The experts believe the bailed-out group is making good progress towards its eventual reprivatisation, but feel there are better opportunities elsewhere in the banking sector.

Opinion is divided right down the middle on gas and electricity supplier SSE after its recent sharp fall, with six brokers believing the shares are now worth buying and another six claiming there could be further falls as politicians squabble over ways to keep down household bills.

Meanwhile, transport giant Stagecoach continues to attract support from a majority of brokers after enjoying a pre-Christmas boost from its decision to lift dividends in response to better trading for its important US operations.

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