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Crest Nicholson returns to mid-price housing market

FINANCE

CREST Nicholson is re-entering the mid-price housing market and building more town properties as pressure on the apartments market increases.

Crest sold 2,471 units in the year to October 2005 and 60 per cent of those sales were flats, which is a larger exposure to this weakening market than many rival house builders.

Chief executive Stephen Stone said: 'We came out of the housing market a couple of years ago as it was under a bit of pressure but we're more confident of the £300,000 to £600,000 bracket now.

'We are buying more land in that band and that will change our mix. We're also designing an intermediate range of housing that we have started using for the first time on our Park Central scheme in Birmingham.' Crest's latest turnover still surged to £701.7 million from £631.2 million but pre-tax profits slid £2.9 million to £79.2 million due to the cost of warding off a bid from Gerald Ronson's Heron group.

Heron retains a 23.4 per cent stake in Crest and under City rules can make another approach but none has been forthcoming.

Mr Stone has also offered to meet Heron as part of his tour of institutional shareholders but this offer has so far been spurned.