Share indices in the week to 11 October 2002
Housebuilding is all about getting the land at a certain price and selling it, plus house, for a great deal more.

Get it right, as Bellway did this week, and everything's rosy, but trip up, like Gleeson has this year, and the results can be messy indeed.

Bellway reported a 23% jump in pre-tax profit to £125.3m for the year to 31 July. However, a glance at Gleeson's figures would serve as a sober reminder that it doesn't take much to go from hero to zero.

Gleeson, one of a dying breed of firms combining housing and contracting, reported a 22.9% fall in profit, mainly from cost overruns in its housing division, in which operating profit dropped by more than half to £500,000. The firm has been forced to cut production, pull out of some developments and restructure.

The management is promising a speedy return to profitability but the City will take a long time to forget. If firms can't make money with house prices rising 20% a year, how will they cope when the downturn finally hits?