Housebuilder posts record £58m interim profit and says that offsite facility Space 4 broke even for the first time.

Housebuilder Westbury says it has experienced an Autumn uplift in the housing market, following a quiet summer.

It said that a strong market in the first four months of the had enabled it to increase interim pre-tax profit by 22% to £58m for the six months ended 31 August 2004.

The record profit on a turnover of £428.4m enabled Westbury to increase interim dividend by 20% to 5.35p per share.

Chief executive Martin Donohue said: "It is clear that interest rate increases and comments from the Bank of England have moderated both demand for new homes and sales prices, however the situation has returned to its normal pattern."

"There was a strong market for the first four months of the year followed by a quieter summer period, but I am pleased to report that Westbury has experienced some uplift in autumn sales figures."

Westbury also announced that its Space4 off-site manufacturing business had broken even for the first time. It said 932 units were sold to Westbury and 143 units to third parties during the interim period.

The housebuilder said that Space 4 had been particularly attractive to the social housing sector. Chairman Geoffrey Maddrell said: “Space 4 will allow the Group to participate in some major regeneration schemes either as developer or supplier of homes.”

The housebuilder built 2,087 homes in total during the six months at an average price of £192,150. It said that it had enough sites to enable volume growth in the second half of the year.

Westbury said that it would base growth on increasing volume and said it aimed to build 7,000 homes within five years.

The company said that at the end of the half year it owned or controlled 16,100 plots with planning consent and had a further 22,100 in its strategic land bank

Chairman Geoffrey Maddrell said: “Overall the fundamentals for our industry remain sound with household formation continuing to outstrip supply.”

“In the short term consumer confidence, which is influenced by wider economic and social factors, could inhibit demand. However, we remain convinced of the sustainability of the UK housing market in the longer term.”