Raine sees signs of hope on house sales

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The Independent Online
RAINE Industries, the house- builder, believes there are strong indications of a recovery in the market for new houses.

'Since Christmas we have seen visitors' (to showhouses) appetite to buy increase. The British public has realised that new homes are never going to be as cheap again,' Peter Parkin, the chairman, said.

Despite the optimism and a 15 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 2.8m for the six months to 31 December, Raine's shares fell 14p to 99p. Mr Parkin said: 'I am well aware it may not be sustainable - we have been disappointed in the past.' Buyers' confidence was 'demolished by the economic and political turmoil' of last year's sterling crisis. 'Another . . . catastrophe could make this recovery disappear.'

He said he believed the house- building sector would be the first to recover. 'In the meantime we shall continue to squeeze costs.'

Hassall Homes, a subsidiary, has introduced a five-year protection package, insuring buyers against redundancy or a fall in the value of their properties.

Raine's operating profit fell pounds 600,000 to pounds 4.55m. The interest bill rose sharply as a result of the acquisition of Walter Lawrence.

Borrowings at the end of December stood at pounds 57.9m, producing gearing of 47 per cent. However John Bancroft, finance director, said this was partly due to seasonal factors and he expected it to settle back to pounds 40m or less, the level at the last year-end.

Net assets rose pounds 2m to pounds 119.8m.