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Housing boom lifts McAlpine sales

ALFRED MCALPINE, the UK housebuilder that is the target of an approach by an unlisted property group, reported strong half-year results yesterday, but these did little to improve the company's share price.

McAlpine said its pre-tax profits were up 52 per cent at pounds 17.3m for the six months to 30 June. Turnover increased to pounds 355.7m from pounds 321.7m, benefiting from low interest rates and a recent boom in the housing market.

On Tuesday, the company announced it had received a second, unsolicited approach from Andrew Goodall, the Brighton Marina owner who runs the family- owned property firm Brunswick Developments. It is thought the offer is backed by Phillips & Drew Fund Management, McAlpine's largest shareholder that sold a 3 per cent stake to Brunswick last week and that supported Mr Goodall's first attempt to acquire the firm in April.

Oliver Whitehead, McAlpine's chief executive, said he was not able to comment on the status of talks with Brunswick, but said he expected to be able to make an announcement in the next few weeks. He also declined to comment on whether his company had received any other approaches since Tuesday.

Mr Whitehead said his target of achieving 15 per cent earnings-per-share growth each year for the next three years remained in place. He said the group would continue to focus on both its homes and construction divisions. McAlpine's private housing unit lifted its operating profit for the half to pounds 15.7m, matching the margin achieved for 1998 as a whole. In construction, Mr Whitehead said he was particularly pleased with the success of the special projects division, set up three years ago.

Brunswick's cash offer of 260p a share values McAlpine at pounds 294.8m. McAlpine shares closed up yesterday at 258p from 256.5p.