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Market Watch


A LONG-running battle for control of house builder Countryside has ended after a dramatic U-turn by one of the bidders.

Investment group Rock Pacific, which owns 28 per cent of Countryside, was blocking a rival management bid and was expected to make its own offer of between 280p and 290p.

After rushing through due diligence, Rock Pacific instead opted to support the 280p per share offer made by chairman Alan Cherry for Countryside, whose shares closed the week up a penny at 277p.

Another takeover has also been sealed at Aggregate Industries - down a penny at 138.5p - with no rivals to a £1.8 billion offer from Swiss giant Holcim, which provided the City with details of its 138p per share offer last week.

Elsewhere, John Laing gained 17.75p to hit a 12-month high of 274.75p as brokers Panmure urged investors to buy up to 290p ahead of this week's trading statement.

Among Laing's former compatriots in contracting, Amec sagged after issuing new shares and Interserve suffered from profit-taking after a recent strong run.

Trading in house builders was marked by caution in the run-up to the Government's detailing of its new housing strategy this week.

Persimmon did gain 17p to 688p as analysts at Merrill Lynch urged investors into the shares but traders were less keen on the current valuation for Barratt, the investment bank's other favourite house builder, with the shares up just a penny to 599p.

Merrill Lynch is less keen on Aggreko and downgraded its rating on the specialist plant hirer to 'sell', which led to a rash of traders dumping shares at the end of last week