Barratt detects housing recovery

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The Independent Online

David Pretty, the chief executive, said pre-tax profits for the six months to the end of December were on course to come in slightly above the market's consensus of £370m, helped by strict controls on building costs and other overheads.

The company increased its land bank to about 63,000 by the end of 2005, compared with 59,443 a year earlier, and boasted a rise in completed sales of 2 per cent to 7,003 between July and December. The average sale price was level at £165,000.

The group announced the appointment of Mark Pain, the former finance director of Abbey National, to its board yesterday, replacing the group finance director Colin Dearlove, who is retiring after 25 years with the company. Mr Pain takes up his new post on 1 March.

In spite of a better-than-expected performance towards the end of 2005, Barratt said market conditions remained challenging. The group said it was responding to the difficult market by improving its sales efficiency and expanding its number of sales outlets. The company plans to open 125 sales outlets across the country by the summer.

Although the group said it was too early to be sure how 2006 would turn out, it said would be well on target to increase volumes for the full year if the current improvements in the market continued. The shares fell 7.5p to 947.5p.