Wilson Bowden profits hit pounds 31m: Midlands housebuilder lives off the land to produce underlying advance of 52 per cent

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The Independent Online
WILSON Bowden, the Midlands housebuilder, benefited from its long bank of relatively cheap land in the year to December, increasing underlying profits by 52 per cent.

Pre-tax profits of pounds 31.2m, against pounds 16.9m in 1992, included a one-off pounds 5.5m pension scheme refund. They were struck from a 45 per cent increase in sales to pounds 185m.

Turnover was boosted by a record number of completions on 1,860 houses (1,367) and an increase in their average selling price. Profits from speculative property development also rose.

A return to Wilson's upmarket roots in five-bedroom houses increased the average selling price from pounds 75,000 to pounds 83,900 despite no underlying house price inflation.

Accounting for less than two- fifths of sales in 1992, large detached houses will be two-thirds of this year's completions. Smaller units aimed at first-time buyers will fall from half of the total to a quarter.

Earnings per share, excluding the pension surplus, were 22.4p (14.2p) and, as forecast at the time of a pounds 57m rights issue last November, the final dividend of 6.65p made a full-year total of 9.3p, a 7 per cent increase.

The proceeds of the cash call had been used to increase Wilson's land bank from 8,750 plots to 10,300. David Wilson, chairman and chief executive, said the total would reach 12,000 this year.

Net cash of pounds 21m at the year-end had been spent in the first three months of the year. Borrowings currently amount to pounds 4m, with pounds 30m of debt anticipated by the year-end.

Mr Wilson warned that land prices, which were up to 50 per cent higher than a year ago in the south of the country, had risen by about 20 per cent in the company's Midlands heartland. But he said that operating margins would rise slightly this year.

The shares closed 5p up at 540p.

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