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House sales record for Hambro

Hambro Countrywide announced yesterday that it sold more houses in February than at any time during the height of the 1980s property boom.

The announcement accompanied results showing that the company made a record pounds 30.8m of taxable profits in 1996, a stark contrast to the pounds 3.9m of losses incurred the previous year and 23 per cent higher than the old record of pounds 25m set in 1987.

Harry Hill, managing director of Hambro Countrywide, said the group sold 12,000 houses in February, 26 per cent more than the same month in 1996.

"March started extraordinarily well too," he said, painting a bullish outlook for this year.

Hambro Countrywide, 52 per cent owned by merchant bank Hambros, yesterday made its first push into the buoyant London housing market by buying Faron Sutaria, an estate agency and letting business, for pounds 7.45m.

The deal had been struck after just six weeks after a "chance" meeting, Mr Hill said. Faron Sutaria would open four more offices across London this year with a further five or six the following year, he said.

He also hinted at further acquisitions, particularly of lettings businesses that can provide steadier income streams than estate agencies. However, he said Hambro Countrywide was talking to any potential targets.

Mr Hill said Hambro had "pinched other people's business" last year as its businesses increased by 28 per cent compared with a 9 per cent rate of increase across the UK housing market generally.

Its mortgage advisers and financial products consultants based in estate agents sold a record 25,729 mortgages, a rise of 72 per cent on 1995.