Countryside reports rise in buyer interest

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The Independent Online
RESERVATIONS from homebuyers for Countryside Properties' houses are up by more than 30 per cent in the three months since Black Wednesday, when sterling left the exchange rate mechanism.

Alan Cherry, Countryside's chief executive, was reluctant to call an end to the housing slump given the number of false dawns the industry has already suffered, but he said the increase in interest from prospective purchasers was 'promising', particularly as most borrowers have still to feel the benefit of recent interest rate cuts.

The slump in values in the past year meant the group had to write pounds 10.1m off its housing land bank as part of a pounds 14.8m exceptional charge. That pushed the group into a pounds 11.7m pre-tax loss in the year to September compared with a pounds 3m profit last year.

The number of houses sold to owner-occupiers fell from 324 to 282, but the group increased its business with housing associations, building 469 in the year, up from 388 last time. Mr Cherry hopes housing association completions will rise to 950 this year, with a target of 3,000 by 1995.

The loss per share was 17.3p (7.2p earnings) but the dividend was held at 4.11p, via a 2.7p final.

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