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Market Watch

FINANCE

THE MANAGEMENT of Countryside has decided not to wait for the next round of consolidation among house builders and has made a move for the business themselves. Confirmation of the bid, led by chairman and company founder Alan Cherry, gave Countryside's ailing shares a much-needed boost last week.

Peter Birse, another old hand not seen much since his retirement three years ago, emerged from the shadows last week to sell off 1.7 million shares in the contractor he founded four decades ago.

Mr Birse still owns 25.6 million shares - 13.3 per cent - in Birse, which closed the week up a ha'penny at 14.5p.

A handful of house builders dipped mid-week after Bank of England figures showed mortgage lending in July at its lowest since December.The only firms not to recover were Bovis ahead of halfyear data on Monday; Berkeley, off 4.5p to 1,214p, and Wilson Bowden, which lost thruppence to 1,110p as some investors took profits after positive results.

Mowlem lost thruppence to 168p and slipped closer to its 12-month low of 164.5p as traders took positions ahead of half-year results.

Scottish contracting-tologistics outfit Malcolm fell again, losing 1.5p to hit a fresh year-low of 74p.

Michelmersh and Baggeridge gained 2.5p to 73.5p and 4.5p to 150p respectively after rival Irish firm CRH, flat at 18.9p, reported improvements at subsidiary Ibstock.

On the junior markets, shares in Ofexlisted Celstone resumed trading after a six-week suspension as the materials firm unveiled a deal to raise £180,000 via a loan.