It was a late-year battle of two oil-patch plays, but on the last day of the year a blue-chip stock chosen by a little girl and her stuffed dog soared to wallop a veteran pro's junior oil selection in the 2005 My One and Only stock-picking contest.
Shell Canada, the choice of six-year-old Emilia Loewen and her red-and-pink dog Sam, surged almost 10 percent on Dec. 30 to finish the year at $42.05, up 59.5 percent in 2005 on a total return basis to win the coveted Globe and Mail (coffee) cup. Shell Canada jumped on reports that its parent, Royal Dutch Shell, was considering buying the remaining shares of its Canadian unit that it didn't already own.
It was the second time in the contest's nine-year history that a random pick has won the competition. A windup clockwork Santa beat the pros in the 2000 contest.
Emilia was likely the only competitor in the contest who lost two teeth last year, dressed up as a princess at Halloween and met Mary Poppins at Disneyland.
"Were there any boys in the race?" she asked her mother, Report on Business deputy editor Cathryn Motherwell.
When told there were two girls and the rest were boys, her competitive drive emerged. When told the girls were finishing one-two, even better.
Nonetheless, she has remained puzzled by the contest's prize: a Globe coffee mug. And since her morning mainstays are apple juice and peanut butter, she has wisely decided to share her bounty. "I'll probably give the mug to Daddy."
Coming in second was Veronika Hirsch, chief investment officer of hedge fund marketer BluMont Capital, whose pick, West Energy finished the year up 40.2 percent at $8.02. The Calgary-based junior oil and gas company, which has its principal focus in the Pembina region of Alberta, was in the lead earlier in December. Ms. Hirsch won the 2001 contest with another oil-patch play, Gulf Canada Resources, which was taken over by U.S. oil giant Conoco.
"West Energy was a smaller-cap pick than I would normally pick for my portfolio," Ms. Hirsch said last month when it looked like she might win the competition. "I don't look for home runs to win the contest. I pick good quality growth stocks that I expect to perform well under any scenario."
Emilia and Ms. Hirsch bested Kamloops, B.C.-based CanStock.com advisory publisher Al Budai whose pick, Xceed Mortgage Corp. led the contest for much of the year. The mortgage lender more than doubled to $9.25 in September from the beginning of the year, before settling back to finish at $6.30, for a one-year gain of 39.2 percent.
These were the only contestants to beat the benchmark S&P/TSX composite index's impressive total return of 24.3 percent for the year. They were among nine competitors in the contest in which entrants are allowed to pick a stock trading at $1 or more on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Robert Callander, vice-president and portfolio manager at Toronto-based Caldwell Securities Ltd., finished a distant fourth with CGI Group, a Montreal-based information technology and business outsourcing company. CGI closed the year at $9.30, a gain of 16.3 percent.
Marco den Ouden, who came second in the 2004 contest, closed 2005 up a mere 2.6 percent with Sherritt International. Mr. den Ouden, publisher of investment advisory The Break Out Report, said he chose the diversified mining company largely for its coal interests. Sherritt closed the year at $10.10.
Mr. den Ouden's Peyto Energy pick would have won the 2004 contest had not York University Finance Professor Moshe Milevsky shrewdly used the leader's privilege to lock in his gains at the end of the first quarter with pharmaceutical company, Forbes Medi-Tech. The academic and author decided to retire undefeated after an unprecedented three-year string of victories.
Michael Smedley, president of closed-end fund Canadian General Investments, picked Centurion Energy International, which finished the year down 23.2 percent at $11.29. Mr. Smedley had been hoping for a second great year for the oil and gas company, which was the top gainer on the TSX in 2004, having soared more than sixfold.
Robert McWhirter, portfolio manager of the Northwest Specialty Innovations Fund, chose Calian Technologies, which lost 25.7 percent in 2005 and closed the year at $10.85. The company sells technology services to industry and government.
Contrarian investors Benj Gallander and Ben Stadelmann, co-editors of the Contra the Heard Investment Letter and regular contributors to GlobeinvestorGOLD.com, struck out this year with Cygnal Technologies. The company, which provides technical services to the broadband communications industry, fell 26 percent in 2005 to $1.11.
Bringing up the rear, something of a tradition among our house players, was Michael Vaughan, formerly of Report on Business Television, who chose Ondine Biopharma. The Vancouver-based biotech firm closed the year at $1.60, down 50.8 percent.