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Market Watch

FINANCE

SHARES in Hanson have hit record levels after the materials giant agreed a settlement over some of its asbestos claims.

The arrangement, confirmed earlier this week, will see the UK firm pay out £20 million to settle the cost of any future claims by victims of asbestos against one of its US subsidiaries.

The deal will provide asbestos insurance cover for its US subsidiary until 2020 and will reduce net costs after 2008 by 20 per cent.

Prior to this agreement Hanson was expected to pay out around £34 million a year over the next eight years to settle the cost of these deals.

Rumours of the settlement helped Hanson's shares up 26p to a record high of 686p last week and the shares were then pushed even higher this week after the arrangement was confirmed.

David Taylor, a construction analyst at stockbrokers Teather & Greenwood, said: 'For Hanson, the elephant in the room is its US asbestos liabilities.

'They are now smaller and possible resolution is less dependent on a US Federal Reform bill that remains in the legislative long grass.' Elsewhere, traders began taking positions ahead of the imminent results season.

Galliford Try will be one of the first contractors to post results next Thursday (February 23) but the firm's shares, which had been trading at record levels, eased last week.

In contrast, contracting giant Carillion put on 11.5p to 330p as the group's acquisition of rival Mowlem pushed forward. Fidelity International has recently bought another 2.4 million shares in Carillion taking its stake to 9.6 per cent.