Crest Nicholson plans to up building starts

Aaron Morby 12 years ago

House builder Crest Nicholson plans to lift its house building rates to exploit the gap left by the volume house builders’ policy to build cautiously.

The mid-league house builder, which was refinanced last year, aims to raise building volumes by 15% a year, restoring output to the pre-2008 crash levels of around 3,000 a year.

Following a debt restructuring last year, Crest said it now boasted sound finances and a strong balance sheet. American hedge fund Varde owns 60% of the business and aims to grow the firm in readiness for a float after two or three years.

Stephen Stone, chief executive of Crest Nicholson, said:”The listed firms are stating that they are happy to build at their level so there is a real opportunity for mid market firms who are responding to the government housing strategy.”

“With an attractive landbank, favourable Southern England focus, market leading sales rates and improving market sentiment, we are well positioned and look forward to the future with confidence.”

Crest booked a pre-tax loss of £27m due to heavy finance costs from an operating profit of £56m, up from £47m last time. Operating margins rose to an industry-beating 18% on revenue up 12% to £319m.

Completions for the year actually fell 5% to 1,520 but overall sales performance rose on the back a 13% gain in average selling prices. Much of the improvement came from a shift away from apartment to traditional homes.

He added that the volume of housing completions in 2012 would grow as more sales outlets come on-stream and the new London division became fully operational.

“We will continue to make land acquisitions that meet our criteria, but have a strong short-term landbank and can therefore be judicious in selecting sites to develop.”

Stone added: “One key to maintaining growth in the sector will be the successful implementation of the proposed National Planning Policy Framework which will release resources from dealing with unnecessarily complex and costly regulations to concentrate time in the planning process where it matters – delivering a sustainable built environment that meets the needs and desires of local communities and helps to address the national housing shortage.”

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