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Laing denies any interest in Bovis

SIR MARTIN Laing, chairman of the construction group, John Laing, last night denied speculation that his company was interested in buying Bovis, the construction unit of the transport giant P&O, writes Francesco Guerrera.

Sir Martin said: "There have been no negotiations whatsoever." However, he said that he would consider joint ventures and other link-ups with Bovis.

He reported a 48 per cent rise in interim pre-tax profits to pounds 18.4m. Shares in Laing rose 15p to 366.5p in a sharply lower market.

Sir Martin, head of the Construction Confederation, added that the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) - the Government's plan to encourage the private sector to build schools, hospitals and prisons - would be slowed down by new accounting rules.

Sir Martin, said new deals could be delayed by up to three months as government departments got to grips with the new requirements.

The new rules, announced on Wednesday, will make it more difficult to transfer projects' assets and liabilities from the public to the private sector.

Meanwhile, Mowlem, the construction group, yesterday reported a 45 per cent increase in interim pre-tax profits to pounds 13.8m. John Gains, the company's chief executive, said its order books were 20 per cent higher than they were a year ago.