Caution tempers Bryant's 47% advance

Bryant, the Midlands-based housebuilder, tarnished its better than expected interim profits - up 47 per cent - with a cautious statement.

Many broking analysts began scaling back full-year profit expectations as the shares fell 2p to 108p.

David Taylor at UBS reduced his forecast for 1995 from £48m to £46.5m. He expects a £52.5m result in 1996.

Bryant's taxable profits in the half-year to November 1994 rose to £21.4m from £14.6m, on turnover up 37 per cent to £244.5m.

Home completions advanced by 18 per cent to 1,745 against 1,480 last time, while the average selling price increased to £106,000 (£94,000).

Return on sales improved from 10.1 per cent to 11.3 per cent as Bryant continued the bias towards four and five-bedroom properties - 60 per cent of the total compared with 45 per cent a year earlier.

Andrew MacKenzie, chief executive, said housing remained on the fringes of economic recovery.

Employment concerns continued to constrain demand and Bryant's reservations dipped by 10 per cent at Christmas following a 30 per cent rise in the period under review. January had been better, however.

As for most housebuilders, Bryant said the next few months - a period usually accounting for 50 per cent of its total reservations - would be crucial for the full-year result.

The group was on track for 3,700 home completions over the full year, Mr MacKenzie said.

Housing operating profits rose to £20.6m (£13.5m), while an increase in the land bank to 10,250 from 9,800 plots pushed up gearing from 3 to 29 per cent.

The construction division experienced competitive trading, with profits falling from £2m to £1.1m, and has a forward order book of £70m. Meanwhile, the property arm moved out of the red.

Earnings per share rose from 3.6p to 5.2p and the dividend is increased to 1.45p (1.40p).

"The somewhat depressing thing, in a wider housing context, is that Bryant are viewed as a very well-run company. If they are cautious,others must be having worse difficulties," one analyst said.