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Chelsfield back into black

Elliott Bernerd's Chelsfield, which owns 90 per cent of the giant Merry Hill shopping centre near Birmingham, said the company's underlying performance "is somewhat stronger" than the 7.5 per cent increase in half- year profits would suggest.

The property group came under severe pressure during the recession, but has bounced back to report pre-tax profits for the six months to 30 June of pounds 4.3m. Chelsfield's shares fell 3p yesterday to 184p, compared to the float price two years ago of 155p. The half-time payout rose from 1.0p to 1.1p. Net assets per ordinary share rose from 161.6p to 179.1p.

Mr Bernerd said: "The interim results reflect a satisfactory operating performance in market conditions which remain subdued.

"The improvement in underlying performance is somewhat stronger than the headline figures would suggest and we are continuing to build the income base of the group."

Last time's results benefited from the reversal of a previous pounds 1.8m provision. This half-year was hit by a pounds 500,000 bill for administrative costs when Chelsfield bought the Chesham Place Estate in London's Belgravia for pounds 48.5m.

Mr Elliott said he is pushing to gain planning permission for a big expansion of the Merry Hill centre in Dudley, West Midlands. He is also helping to co-ordinate two investor groups to redevelop a 35-acre site in London's White City. Sums of pounds 500m have been mentioned in relation to Mr Elliott's plans to build the biggest single shopping centre in West London.