Housebuilder Barratt has blamed "testing market conditions" for a 1% reduction in private completions in the past six months.

Announcing that its interim results would be released in March, Barratt said private completions were 1% lower than last year, at 5569. Social housing completions rose 14% to 1434 over the same period.

In a statement, the firm said it expected to announce a further growth in legal completions and an improvement in pre-tax profit in its interim results.

The firm said: "Overall, 2005 was challenging, with the market adjusting from its earlier overheated levels to more normal levels of activity. Despite testing market conditions we competed well in all our areas."

Barratt also announced this week that its Colin Dearlove, its finance director, is to step down after 25 years service. Dearlove will be replaced by Mark Pain, former finance director of Abbey National.

Dearlove, 54, joined Barratt in 1981 and became group finance director in 1992, holding the position for the past 14 years. He has worked for three Barratt group chief executives - Sir Lawrie Barratt, the late Frank Eaton and David Pretty, the current group chief executive.