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Market Watch

FINANCE

THE CITY took a shine to the expected offer by Persimmon for its smaller rival Westbury and marked up shares in the firm, which will become the UK's biggest house builder by any measure.

More than 170 million Persimmon shares switched portfolios last week but there were more buyers than sellers, which lifted the stock onto the leader board.

Analysts at Seymour Pierce upgraded Persimmon to 'buy', claiming that a cost-saving deal could reach £40 million by 2007 and the firm could raise volumes signif icantly without opening too many offices.

Persimmon is offering 560p per share for Westbury, whose stock closed the week off 3.25p at 559.5p.

The deal led some speculative investors to look for the next takeover target among the diminishing band of house builders.

Among the potential candidates, Oakdene was ahead 7.5p to 158p; Bovis rose 31p to 714p and Redrow put on 30.5p to 489p ? all prices on or close to a 12-month high.

Travis Perk ins rebounded after a recent profits warning from the builders' merchant.

Travis Perkins' shares climbed off their recent 12month low of 1,205p to close the week at 1,270p, with more than 20 million shares traded.

But the year-high price of 1,979p is starting to look like a lost horizon.

Analysts at investment bank UBS downgraded its rating on Travis Perkins shares from 'buy' to 'neutral' and slashed the target price to 1,335p from 1,722p.

In contrast Chieftain continued to gain and reached a year-high as retail traders bought into the north-eastbased fabrication contractor on the back of a recent major maintenance contract.