Countryside launches pounds 16.8m rights

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The Independent Online
COUNTRYSIDE Properties, the house builder and developer, yesterday asked shareholders for pounds 16.8m for expansion in its second rights issue in less than two years, writes Heather Connon.

The funds will be invested in its housing division, where it aims to increase sales to 3,000 houses a year, compared with the 1,250 that it estimates will be completed in the current year. Of those, almost two-thirds are likely to be social housing developed with housing associations. Alan Cherry, chairman, said that most of the social housing was already under contract.

Countryside operates exclusively in the South-east and aims to expand in the region. It owns enough land with planning permission for 2,000 houses, but has 8,000 more under option or without planning permission.

The three-for-11 issue is priced at 106p a share, an 18.5 per cent discount on the 130p share price, unchanged on the day. In June 1991, it raised pounds 20.5m through an 88p rights issue.

The rights came as it revealed a 23 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 2.6m in the six months to March. That was due to an absence of land provisions, before which profits dropped from pounds 3m to pounds 2.6m.

Countryside's debts stand at pounds 83.1m, up from pounds 70.2m last time, compared with pounds 60m of shareholders' funds. Mr Cherry said that pounds 38m of that is secured on investment property worth pounds 55m, where the rent roll covers the interest. Earnings per share rose from 3.2p to 4.3p and the dividend was held at 1.41p.