Contractor Kier announced a pre-tax profit of £26.9m for the six months to 31 December, a rise of 54% on the same period the previous year.

The figure excluded an exceptional profit of £5.9m from the sale of Kier’s investment in the Neath Port Talbot Hospital project and a property in the firm’s estate. It also excluded a goodwill charge of £1.3m. Turnover increased 12.3% to £816.1m.

Chief executive John Dodds described the results as excellent and noted the contribution from the group’s homes division, which had benefited from a strong order book, which was first disclosed at last year’s annual results in July.

Housing completions rose to 721, a 28.3% increase, while the average selling price fell from £184,800 to £180,500. This reflected decisions by Kier to reduce the size of units and an increase in affordable housing units from 3% to 10% of sales.

But the group warned that the housing market had cooled in the final quarter of the year. It said that reservation levels were showing signs of more sustainable market conditions, and reported that inquiry levels after Christmas indicated modest growth for this year.

Kier said its construction business had remained sound with growth in the private and public sectors, and operating profit in the division rose 62.5% to £6.5m.

Construction and services order books were at £1.82bn.