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Barratt focuses on Thames Gateway

FINANCE

THE UK'S second biggest house builder, Barratt, has set up an arm to cash in on plans to build thousands of homes in the Thames Gateway area.

The former boss of Barratt's east London division, Richard Reynolds, will head Barratt Thames Gateway, which will be based in Stratford. The firm will deal with the Government's plan to build 160,000 homes in the area by 2016.

Despite a slowdown in the market, Barratt dragged pretax profit up 11 per cent to £407 million in the year to June but group turnover slipped £3 million to just over £2.5 billion.

Group finance director Colin Dearlove said: 'The market has been challenging but there is plenty of business to be done.

People are still buying houses but are taking longer to make decisions. The medium and long-term fundamentals are pretty sound.' Material and labour costs rose 3 per cent in the past year but this was half the hikes experienced between 2002 and 2004.

Barratt built 1,760 homes for social housing organisations last year and is planning to lift the amount of work in this sector from its current 12 per cent of output to 15 per cent.