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The city's favourite house builder, Wilson Bowden, turned in first half pre-tax profits which were down by a third to £10.3 million last week - and still earned City plaudits.County NatWest, paying tribute to Wilson Bowden's 'shining honesty' in putting realistic values on its land bank, said '£1 of its pre-tax profits is worth probably £2-3 of virtually every other house builder's pre-tax profits'.Wilson Bowden maintained its dividend at 2.5p and reported more than respectable margins of 16 per cent. The share price leapt 22p to 248p on the result.Chairman and chief executive David Wilson said the company benefited from the 'perception of being a quality builder', which meant that 'maybe we get a slight premium'.He said the original target of 1,600 houses in 1992 had been 'long since given up'. The company is now aiming for 'the top side of 1,300', the same as last year.'This is assuming that the autumn selling season is not a total wipe-out. The market is such that you can't even hazard a guess what the attitude of people will be next,' he added.Mr Wilson reckons to have made '90-odd completions' in the last two days before the reimposition of stamp duty on August 19. What is unclear, he says, is how many of these sales were 'brought forward' from the autumn.'I believe it proves that a bit of pressure on the throttle can stimulate things,' Mr Wilson said. 'But they don't see it that way in Downing Street.'According to Mr Wilson, the results showed Wilson Bowden's resilience. The group had tried 'to preserve and protect the basic labour force' and has had no redundancies, he said. It has also increased its land bank over the past 12 months 'taking advantage of lower prices'. Mr Wilson expects to be working on 20 more sites next year than the company is this year. 'But we are not going for volume,' he said.