Barratt's attractiveness to investors is a moot point.

Some in the City believe the housebuilder is over the worst and say its shares are worth a punt at 60p-ish. They point to the rescue deal it struck with its banks in the summer.

Others are more reticent. Included in that camp is Alastair Stewart at Dresdner Kleinwort who issued a note called "It's Grim Up North" in September. He described how Barratt's Yorkshire East division was offering discounts of 43% on bulk deals so poor was the housing market.

The story was picked up by most national newspapers, including The Sun, and for a few week's Barratt's name couldn't be written anywhere without the 43% figure being bandied around.

Cut to this week and the company announced surprisingly good visitor levels to its sales sites for the last three months - particularly since September.

Word has it the negative publicity may have actually attracted punters to its sites in search of a bargain.

Every cloud ...