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Market Watch

FINANCE

SHAREHOLDERS in Ultraframe are on tenterhooks as bid rumours swirl round the beleaguered conservatory manufacturer.

The whisper last week was of a 65pa-share bid, which promoted heavy trading in which more than 18 million shares changed hands.

The stock has been one of the biggest dogs on the FTSE Construction sector and recently bottomed out at 46.25p from a high of 355p just 18 months ago.

The collapse has been accelerated by profit warnings, woeful annual results at the end of last year and a gloomy recent trading statement, prompting brokers Arbuthnot to suggest the company would be better off in private hands.

Country & Metropolitan gained 17.5p to close the week at 215.5p - close to the year-high of 218.5p - after broker Numis reiterated a 'buy' rating on the house builder.

There was more share price movement among the sector's bigger players as investment bank USB Warburg reviewed the house builders.

Despite UBS issuing a handful of downgrades, there were still buyers for shares that were ditched.

Bellway and Bovis were both downgraded by UBS from 'buy' to 'neutral' but gained 11p to 875p and 42.5p to 665p respectively.This was due to UBS lifting the target price on Bellway by 40p to 930p and Bovis by 10p to 700p.

UBS also downgraded Crest Nicholson.This had more effect and the stock closed the week up just a ha'penny at 371.5p.

Among the contractors, UBS downgraded Carillion from 'buy' to 'neutral' with a target price of 275p.UBS was not the only broker changing its opinion.

Bridgewell downgraded Carillion to 'overweight' from 'buy', which helped push the shares down 5p to 247p.The biggest gain among the contractors last week was regional outfit, Pochin. A Construction News share tip for 2005, Pochin hit an alltime high as punters gambled that the full-year results due out from the northwestern construction group next week will be positive.

Elsewhere, shares in materials outfit Heiton ceased trading in London on Monday after a takeover by Irish rival Grafton - up 0.23p at 9.7p - was completed.