The company's shares added 11p to 264.5p after Geoffrey Maddrell, chairman, said: "The new year has ... begun well in an improved market place. Our aim is to increase profitability through a focus on improved operating efficiencies rather than higher volumes."
Analysts welcomed the group's concentration on financial goals rather than just growth for its own sake. Robin Hardy at the company's brokers, Panmure Gordon, described the results as excellent.
He said the company was now focused on the right measures, such as conserving capital and higher returns, rather than just the size of the land bank and plot volumes. He has raised his forecast for the current year from pounds 25.7m to pounds 27.2m.
That forecast compares with pre-tax profits of pounds 22.6m for the period to February reported yesterday, up from pounds 11.5m in 1996, a figure depressed by a pounds 1.7m restructuring charge for the acquisition of Clarke Homes.
The figures were boosted by the first full year's inclusion of Clarke, formerly the housebuilding arm of the BICC cables group, acquired for pounds 60.7m at the end of 1995.Reuse content