Aggressive pricing gives Wilson record sales

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The Independent Online
WILSON CONNOLLY, the housebuilder, sold a record 2,880 homes last year, but only after indulging in some aggressive pricing.

Turnover inched up to pounds 155m from pounds 153m, but profits from Wilson's main area of operation were cut nearly 30 per cent, from pounds 26m to pounds 18m.

The operating profit margin in housing slumped from 16.8 to 11.8 per cent last year. Ian Black, managing director, said: 'You have to face up to the market in which you operate. You cannot make any profits unless you sell homes and you could not do that last year if you refused to cut margins.'

His chairman, Lynn Wilson, said: 'To have achieved trading profits of pounds 22m and a turnover of pounds 201m in the longest and deepest recession in living memory was no mean feat.'

Mr Black said much of Wilson's success - compared with other housebuilders that are currently struggling for survival - was because of careful management of cash. Borrowings of pounds 30m at the end of 1989, the equivalent of 20 per cent gearing, have been neutralised.

A light debt burden also allowed it to continue buying land for development, both at inflated late 1980s prices, and at lower prices recently.

Mr Black was cautious about housing market surveys in the past few days which have suggested a recovery. 'We have had a good four- month period in the traditionally strong spring period, but the number of visitors to our sales offices has fallen sharply in the last week or so.' Earnings per share were 40 per cent down at 6.1p while the dividend was unchanged at 3.93p. The shares rose 3p to 163p.

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