Turnover crashes by half as housebuilder is hit by falling market and exposure to mixed-tenure schemes

Losses at housebuilder Countryside Properties nearly doubled this year as turnover plummeted by half to £187.8m.

It made a pre-tax loss for the year to 30 September 2009 of £54.3m, compared with £28.4m the previous year, an increase of 91%, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

A statement by the housebuilder said it had been a victim of the falling market, and in particular its exposure to mixed-tenure regeneration schemes. This meant it had been trying to sell a higher proportion of smaller homes than usual.

The firm’s average selling price dropped by almost a quarter from £195,000 to £151,000.

In addition, accounts filed for its holding company, Copthorn Holdings, give details of Countryside’s refinancing deal with Bank of Scotland in September last year.

The debt-for-equity swap involved writing off £199m of debt, interest and loan notes in return for £8m in non-voting shares and revised loan terms.

Until the refinancing, Countryside had been in danger of breaching loan covenants, and had £287m of loans that were repayable immediately.

The housebuilder’s £295m bank facility will be extended to 2011 with renegotiated covenants that will require it to generate a set amount of cash. The interest rate on the loan has been increased from 2.25% above Libor to 3.5%.

The accounts also reveal that the housebuilder is to pay bankers £8.4m in fees for arranging the loans, and that it cut staff from 803 to 526.

Graham Cherry, the chief executive, said the refinancing meant the company was in a position to take advantage of its substantial land holdings.

He said: “The group has the skills, abilities, experience, management and financial backing to emerge from the current testing market environment and to respond successfully to the opportunities which inevitably lie ahead.