Crest Nicholson in demand

SHARES in revived housebuilder Crest Nicholson jumped by 16 per cent yesterday as investors continued with their positive sentiments towards the construction sector.

Crest spent nearly four decades on the stock market before being taken private by Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter and Bank of Scotland in a £715 million deal in 2007, a little before the banking and housing industry slumps.

The stock was floated at 220p – towards the upper end of its original price range – valuing the builder at £553m. Shares climbed by 35p to close at 255p last night.

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Analysts said Crest still looked discounted compared with peers which have seen heady increases in their share prices over the past year.

Crest’s initial public offering raised £225m, with £169m going to existing shareholders – including Varde Investment Partners and Deutsche Bank – and a further £56m heading to the company to pay down debt and buy more land. Hunter no longer has a stake in the business.

The company – which is majority-owned by Varde, the American distressed investment fund – said last month that it had made a pre-tax profit of £62m for the financial year to 31 October, compared with a loss of £89m in the previous 12 months.

Publicly-listed housebuilding rivals such as Taylor Wimpey and Barratt also said last month that profits in 2012 should have grown strongly.

Crest said that, during the last year, its legal completions rose 24 per cent to 1,882, and the average selling price lifted 3 per cent to £230,000.

Chief executive Stephen Stone has said the housing market is moving into a period of gradual recovery, and that Crest’s geographical bias to the south of England is advantageous.