The Persimmon effect

Housebuilders rallied last week, still riding high on the back of Persimmon’s proposed takeover of Westbury. In fact Westbury itself was the only major housebuilder to register a fall overall, down by less than 1% to 559.5p, close to the cash offer of 560p a share that Westbury has recommended its shareholders to accept.

Still, Westbury’s share price has risen from less than 500p in the past two weeks since the news of the takeover bid broke, and the bid values the firm at £643m.

The prospect of Persimmon becoming the first housebuilder to hit the dizzy heights of the FTSE 100 has also had the anticipated knock-on effect of increasing the desirability of other quoted housebuilders.

This is partly because the sector as a whole is attracting attention from a wider City audience, and partly because more consolidation on the back of this approach is expected.

Last week Crest Nicholson achieved the biggest gain of the housebuilders, rising 10% to 439p, helped by a trading update that confirmed its performance in the 12 months to October was in line with expectations, despite a “challenging” market.

But others gained too, including Barratt (+5.3%), Bellway (+5.4%) and Redrow (+4.4%). Persimmon itself rose 6% to 1100p.

The general climate continued to work in housebuilders’ favour this week, as property website Hometrack said on Monday that house prices remained flat in November, the first time in 16 months that they had not fallen.

The rest of the sector was a mixed bag, with the star performer, consultant T Clarke, up 10.5% to 247p, and the poorest Ultraframe, a conservatory maker, falling 8% to 34.25p.

Costain also had a bad week, down 4.27% to 40.25p.

Within the support services sector, Atkins had a good week, up almost 4% to 753p after winning a Ministry of Defence prime housing contract and ahead of its interim results announcement this week.

The Construction and Building Materials Index rose 2.5% to 3969, reflecting a solid week and outperforming the All-Share, which rose less than 1% to 2783.