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Company Spotlight: Countryside

FINANCE

WHY DOES Countryside chairman Alan Cherry and his family, including a brother and nephews, want to take the house builder private?

Westbury, Bovis and Redrow have all been tipped to feature in the next round of consolidation with nary a mention for Countryside.

Certainly the firm's shares were not much loved in the City early this year until the Cherry clan announced its intentions.

Part of the problem is that Countryside has insisted on retaining a contracting arm.

Only Taylor Woodrow among the firm's peers still operates this sort of business, which is unliked in the City.

That Countryside is unpopular in the City, despite being one of the first major house builders to focus on urban regeneration, is also telling.

Tony Pidgley's recent decision to signal the end of Berkeley's role as a volume house builder in favour of urban regeneration was a clear sign that this is a route worth following.

Yet enthusiasm for Berkeley's move lay not in urban regeneration but the prospect of cash being returned to shareholders as the landbank is sold off.

Most major house builders appreciate the need for some form of involvement in urban regeneration to free up stateowned land but this argument has obviously not been grasped by everyone in the City.

With a consented land bank, strong construction skills and a market capitalisation of around £200 million, Countryside could have offered that entry for one of its major rivals.