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Barratt's profits up 4 per cent as forward sales rise £202m

FINANCE

HOUSE buyer confidence is improving and there have been positive signs in the first weeks of 2006 with encouraging recent sales trends, Barratt Developments said last week.

The firm said the market remained competitive but its forward sales have increased to £910 million from £708 million at its half year end in December and are now equivalent to 90 per cent of its full year projection. But its first half private UK completions fell by 1 per cent to 5,569 homes.

Unveiling a 4 per cent rise in underlying interim pre-tax prof its to £163.9 million, chief executive David Pretty said: 'On current form we are on track for another successful year.' The group lifted its overall UK completions 2 per cent to 7,003 at an average selling price slightly higher at £166,600.

Meanwhile, the firm increased its operating margin from 14.4 per cent to 14.8 per cent.

The company said it faced a challenging market in 2005. It added: 'We had prepared for tougher times with wide-ranging and improved efficiencies in our selling and marketing operation and also by steadily increasing sales outlets.' Incentives and marketing operations were also necessary.

Completions increased by 14 per cent to 1,434 at Barratt's social housing arm.

The group has also been buying land, acquiring 9,305 plots during the year increasing its overall land bank to 63,365 plots, a 4.3-year supply.