Building downturn is £20m hit for St Modwen

REGENERATION specialist St Modwen Properties yesterday posted half-year losses of £20 million as it said the industry faced its toughest period since 1990.

The group, which holds a portfolio of about 5,000 developable acres and 18 town centre schemes south of the Border, said current conditions meant it would not attempt to sell any of its residential land until the market stabilised.

As a result of the downturn, St Modwen wrote off 37.7m from the book value of its residential sites, alongside 16.9m from its commercial portfolio.

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This resulted in pre-tax losses of 20m in the six months to 31 May, compared with profits of 65.1m a year earlier.

The company said: "We are reporting on what has been the most difficult period for the property industry since 1990."

It admitted the "pace and severity" of the decline in the residential market had taken the company and the market as a whole by surprise.

St Modwen added: "This means that, for residential land, there is currently no genuine market, as the major housebuilders are unwilling to invest in land until they can see the way ahead more clearly."

Recent projects added to its portfolio include the 1,000 acre former BP oil refinery at Llandarcy in south Wales, of which 320 acres is developable.

In Sunderland it has acquired the 9.3 acre former ARC International glassworks, while the 4.5 acre former RWE power station at Letchworth should lead to an 80,000sq ft employment scheme.

Meanwhile, four separate planning applications – representing 750m of mixed-use development – have been submitted to Birmingham City Council and Bromsgrove District Council for the regeneration of the 468 acre former MG Rover Works at Longbridge.

The proposals include 1.8 million sq ft of employment space, as well as 1,980 new homes.