THE stock market value of an East Lancashire firm has rocketed by tens of millions of pounds in the past fortnight, it was revealed today.

Workers at Ribble Valley conservatory roofing company Ultraframe who own shares in the firm have seen their investment rise by almost 20 per cent.

Those that have held on to the average shareholding of £20,000 since the firm floated on the stock market have seen their stake double to around £50,000.

On February 15 the share price was 300p, but it reached 370p at one point this week.

The firm, which employs about 600 people in the Ribble Valley, said it knew of no particular reason why the shares had risen so much.

The stock market overall has risen strongly over the past fortnight, but Ultraframe shares have increased more than three times the average rise seen by other shares.

One possible reason is that a large proportion of Ultraframe's shares are owned by a relatively small group of people including founder John Lancaster and his family - who own almost half the £300 million-plus company - other directors and employees. That means shares are often in short supply and that pushes the price up even when a small number are being ought by investors.

In December the firm announced record results with a 44 per cent leap in profits. Since then the shares have risen by more than 60 per cent.

The firm joined the stock market in October 1997 after shares were placed with financial institutions at a price of 147p. Within four months the shares had shot up by more than 50 per cent.

Employees - who had been able to buy shares in the company before its flotation for significantly below their value when it floated - had an average shareholding worth £20,000.

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