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15Oct92 UK: HIGGS SET FOR A LOSS AS ORDERS TAKE DIVE.

Higgs and Hill's construction division is poised to make a loss for the full year after the firm's order book dived to £145 million at the start of the year.Unveiling a fall in first-half pre-tax profits to £673,000 (1991: £1.06 million) chairman Sir Brian Hill said: 'The trading outlook for the second half remains uncertain with a continuing loss anticipated for the construction division.'Turnover fell by one-fifth to £150 million and trading profit was £1.55 million - with 'significant profit' from two property transactions - against £1.65 million last time.But the result was marred by an exceptional provision of £870,000 to cover redundancy costs. Higgs has shed 240 jobs so far this year.The company has reduced borrowings, with gearing now below 10 per cent. Chief executive John Theakston said: 'Because we have a very low debt position, we are not having our arm twisted to get cash flow irrespective of whether there is a margin in a job.'In the UK the company is 'rationalising' its property operations and releasing capital from its housing operation.Housing sales rose to 128 units during the half against 96 last time, although the average selling price fell.George Duncan will replace Sir Brian Hill as chairman at the year end. Ian Mclellan, managing director of Ibstock Johnsen, has joined the board as a non-executive director.