Cherrys bid to take Countryside private

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Alan Cherry, the 71-year-old chairman and founder of Countryside Properties, has made an approach to take the developer private.

Alan Cherry, the 71-year-old chairman and founder of Countryside Properties, has made an approach to take the developer private.

Mr Cherry's sons are also executive directors of the company with Graham Cherry, 44, serving as chief executive, while Richard Cherry, 42, is the new business director. The Cherry family owns around 20 per cent of Countryside, which is based in Brentwood, Essex, and listed on the stock market in 1972.

The younger Cherrys joined as graduate trainees, having attended Reading University, and made it to the board within four years of starting the graduate scheme at the company.

Shares in Countryside, an urban development specialist, closed up 36 per cent at 265.25p, valuing the company at £210m.

A statement acknowledging the approach was made by the company in reaction to a sharp rise in the shares yesterday morning. The company said: "Matters are at an early stage and there is no certainty that any offer will be made."

Countryside put out a profits warning in April, citing a weaker market for higher-priced homes and timing issues with the large-scale developments that it now undertakes. The company was one of the early builders to focus on mixed schemes and urban regeneration.

Tessa Starmer, an analyst at Seymour Pierce, said: "[It] has not been as operationally strong as other housebuilders. It has a pretty good land bank. It falls down on the building side."

Countryside is focused on the South-east, the region considered most at risk if house prices fall sharply. The company's profit margins, at some 12 per cent, are well below those of the leading players in the sector.

A number of other smaller house builders have gone private in recent years.

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