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Market Watch

FINANCE

SHARES in plant hirers were in demand last week, encouraged by growing acquisition activity in the sector.

Brandon Hire climbed by over 9 per cent as the plumbing distribution giant Wolseley unveiled agreed terms valuing the hire firm at 212p per share or £72 million. Brandon has a network of 143 tool hire and lifting equipment branches and should fit with Wolseley's existing tool hire business as well as benefiting from its financial muscle (See page 20).

Shares in fellow-hirer Vp climbed by 6.2 per cent to 344p.

Last month the firm acquired Bukom Oilfield Services, a specialist equipment hirer that will boost Vp's presence in the oil and gas sector.

Shares in Rok Property Solutions jumped by 4 per cent to 580p. The firm's shareholders have not enjoyed the recent spectacular performance seen at some other medium-sized contractors, notably Kier and Morgan Sindall. But recent final results showing a 38 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £16.1 million and improving margins suggest the group is in good health.

Galliford Try, which last week completed the acquisition of Morrison's construction division, saw its shares climb 3.8 per cent to 122p.

The stock market grew jittery about housebuilders last week with Barratt Developments, Crest Nicholson and Taylor Woodrow coming under pressure as the City's hopes for an early cut in interest rates receded.

Despite an upbeat trading statement, Mitie's shares fell nearly 8 per cent to 191.5p.

The firm, which has been expanding in the social housing market, said it has had a good second half and that market conditions remain positive.

Shares in consultancy White Young Green slid by 9 per cent to 368p, as the firm accompanied its interim results with two acquisitions and a placing of 2 million new shares.