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Market Watch

FINANCE

SHARES in Countryside hit their highest level for two decades last week on news that property entrepreneur Paul Kemsley is building a stake in the house builder.

Mr Kemsley's investment vehicle Rock Pacific has an 11 per cent holding in Countryside, whose founders, the Cherry family, are considering taking the business private.

More than 21 million Countryside shares shifted portfolios last week, driving the stock up to 279p at one point before the shares closed the week at 274p - up 20p.

Property impresario Gerald Ronson was also raising his stake in another midrange house builder with his Heron International outfit hoovering up another 2.5 million shares in Crest Nicholson.

This took Heron's stake up to 22.1 per cent and increased speculation that Mr Ronson might launch a bid for Crest, whose shares closed last week down 10.25p at 333p.

Elsewhere, Westbury ticked up 12.5p to 379p after solid half-year results and buying ahead of full-year figures due out today (Thursday) pushed retirement specialist McCarthy & Stone up 11p to 579p.

Investors were attracted to John Laing as share-buying by directors Derek Potts and Tim Matthews inspired confidence.

Earlier this week, shares in Balfour Beatty rose by 4.5p to 281.5p after the group said its jointly owned construction business in the United Arab Emirates had won a £400 million deal with a partner to build the world's biggest shopping centre in Dubai.

But shares in Ennstone, the aggies group, slipped to 35p despite the announcement that its offer for Johnston Group has gone unconditional.