City File: Building shares fall into the basement

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The Independent Online
AS CONSTRUCTION shares dipped even further on Friday, wiseacres were concentrating on Costain, down a further 5p to 25.5p, against 356p only two years ago. Was it 'only 25p to go' or was it time for some selective bottom fishing? The market is rightly nervous of one of the builders, which has not yet changed top management but is still in family hands, still negotiating with its bankers and has an overpriced land bank. Even so, the whole caboodle is valued at a mere pounds 60m, and if you really think it will survive, then now is your opportunity.

Safer - relatively speaking - is Taylor Woodrow, one of the former giants now fallen low, but in the course of ruthless rationalisation of assets and overheads, which ate up pounds 95m last year. The shares may have been artificially deflated because of the certainty of a slashed (or non-existent) dividend under the stern regime of the new chairman, Colin Parsons.

At 63p, down from 78p over the week (and more than 300p in 1990), they look a better bet, despite uncertainties over outstanding compensation claims from Eurotunnel and from the Danes over the Storebaelt bridge contract. But luckily for Mr Parsons, his predecessor, Peter Drew, wrote off everything in sight before departing.