Berkeley announces 44m pounds rights issue

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BERKELEY, the housebuilder that has steadily increased profits despite the depressed housing market, has announced a pounds 44.1m rights issue to expand its land bank and community housing ventures.

The one-for-four issue, offered at 295p a share, comes hard on the heels of the revelation that George Soros, who made a killing on sterling's devaluation last September, has built up a 3.19 per cent stake in Berkeley.

In January, before Mr Soros's stake was revealed, the shares stood at 323p. Yesterday the shares fell 13p to 347p before soaring up to close at 370p. Tony Pidgley, managing director, said Mr Soros's involvement had no bearing on the timing of the issue.

He agreed that the decision to invest in land was in lieu of a takeover bid for another company. Last December, Berkeley bought and sold 328,000 shares in Higgs & Hill, a rival construction group, which gave rise to talk of a bid.

'In the past two years we have looked at a number of competitors but for various reasons did not go through with a bid. We have made our mind up. We are growing organically our existing companies, acquiring unique specialist sites at prices at the bottom of the market. That's what we're good at.'

Yesterday Berkeley said it anticipated pre- tax profits of not less than pounds 15m in the year ending April 1993, against pounds 12.6m in the previous year. It forecast a 4.35p final dividend, giving a total of 6p, up by 20 per cent on 1992.

The company also expects to build and sell nearly 1,200 units in the year to April. In 1991 it sold just 491.

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