Listed housebuilder Country & Metropolitan almost doubled its profit last year after focusing on the first-time buyer market.

The firm turned in a pre-tax profit of £10.4m for the year ended 30 June 2004, a 97% increase on last year.

The average price of the homes that it sold was £121,000.

The strategy was in line with other housebuilders, such as Berkeley, which have quit the luxury housing sector because it has been worst hit by the slowing market.

C&M will now focus on studios as well as one- and two-bedroom flats starting at £87,500. It increased the number of homes it sold by 27%, from 598 to 759.

David Laing, C&M chairman, said: “There is tremendous pent-up demand for housing in the UK, providing it is affordable.” He also described the planning system as “an ever-growing problem”.

C&M recommended a total dividend of 4.125p, an increase of 25%. Turnover rose 35% to £81.4m. Shares in the company closed up 4%, or 7p, to 190.5p after the results were announced last week.