Crest makes “excellent” start to the year

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson bucked the economic gloom today by reporting half-year profits of £16 million and a 33 per cent jump in sale completions.

The Surrey-based group, which operates in the midlands, south east and south west of England, said its focus on prime locations and a rush by first-time buyers to take advantage of a stamp duty holiday helped boost revenues.

Crest was previously owned through a joint venture between HBOS and Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter following a £1.2 billion takeover at the peak of the housing market in 2007.

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It was the subject of a £630m debt-for-equity swap in March 2009, a move which left it owned by a consortium of 24 banks, before a financial restructuring in September reduced its debt costs.

This was a factor in it swinging back to profit for the six months to 30 April, after losses of £21.5m a year earlier.

Average selling prices were up 12 per cent at £233,000, reflecting an increasing proportion of higher value properties, while margins improved 3.1 per cent to 28.3 per cent.

Chief executive Stephen Stone described the results as “excellent”, with strong revenues and margin growth at a time of economic uncertainty.

He added: “We have continued to benefit from good customer demand for high quality homes, within well-conceived master plans, in prime locations in London and the south.”