Construction shares this week...

Travis Perkins was feeling blue last week. Shares in the builders merchant plummeted almost 10% to 1284p when the market closed on Friday, thanks to another profit warning.

The problem, again, was the poor sales performance by Wickes, its DIY chain. To an extent, Travis Perkins must be kicking itself over the timing of the acquisition, which was aimed accurately at the peak of consumer confidence and high street sales. It beat off competition from two other two acquisition-hungry materials groups – Wolseley and Saint-Gobain – by paying a whopping £950m in January.

Now, it is licking its wounds. It told the market last Friday that turnover from its Wickes showrooms was down 21% in the four months to October 2005 compared with the same period last year, and warned that sales may decline further.

Travis Perkins first lowered its expectations for 2005 in July, but its estimated pre-tax profits for the year to the end of December are expected to fall 9% from £225m to £205m.

The company did not sugarcoat it for the analysts. “We expect trading conditions in merchanting to worsen more than usual through the winter period, with the prospect of an extended shutdown in the building sector over the holiday season.”

Despite the fact that shares in other quoted materials companies rose – Hanson was up 0.2% to 589.5p and Wolseley was up 0.5% to 1190p – these rises were modest in comparison with the rest of the construction sector, suggesting that the news did have some minor effect on them.

Mowlem’s shares were up again, 4.7% to 191p, in response to the fact that it is in talks as a takeover target, and housebuilder Westbury was the best performing company of the week, up 6.9% to 494p. This followed the news that it had received an approach, now known to be from Persimmon, although the market was not given much time to respond.

Another firm to take a turn on the wheel of fortune was top performer Kier. After rising to its highest ever price last week, it was one of the worst performers this week, down 7.1% to 1142.5p.

The construction sector overall performed in line with the All-Share Index, both rose 0.8% to 3887 and 2744 respectively.