Ward Holdings dives 10%

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SHARES IN Ward Holdings, the Kent-based housebuilder, slumped nearly 10 per cent yesterday despite a return to profitability, writes Robert Cole.

Ward made pre-tax profits of pounds 347,000 for the six-month period ended 30 April, compared with a loss of pounds 1.8m in 1992.

But sentiment turned against Ward yesterday because the company passed its dividend. Shareholders have received nothing since an interim payment in 1991.

Ward's shares also suffered following a downbeat statement on current trading by chairman Denis Ward. He said profit margins were squeezed because the market was flush with both new houses and properties that had been repossessed.

'Trading conditions in the South-east of England housing market continue to be depressed and this area remains one of the most difficult in the country from which to operate,' he said.

Earnings per share were 0.7p against losses last time of 2.3p. Shares fell 5p to 47p. Five years ago they were trading at more than 150p.