It is understood that the bid was not from Bryant or Brunswick Developments, which made an offer for McAlpine last year. Analysts say the approach is likely to have come from a private equity investor.
The prospect of the suitor being from outside the sector depressed one rival. "There is a real need for consolidation in the sector," he said, despite the recent upturn in housebuilders' stock. He thought that one tip for further consolidation could be Laing Homes, in the wake of the group's decision to sell its construction arm. He argued that without a strong plc board running the housing arm, there would be less impediment to a deal being struck.