Ward Homes' pre-tax profit has jumped 66% since the company was taken private 18 months ago.
The Kent-based housebuilder's first set of results since a management buyout in July 2000 show that the company's performance has improved dramatically.

Pre-tax profit rose from £7.1m to £11.8m in the year to 31 October 2001, and turnover increased 44% to £71.9m. The firm's operating margin has improved from 15% to 17.4%.

Chairman David Holliday, who led the £34m management buyout, said delisting had allowed management to focus on running the business, rather than pleasing the City.

He said: "We had been listed since the 1950s, but had never got the attention our performance deserved because we were considered too small.

"Now we are free of that and can concentrate on the business. Going private has certainly helped our performance."

Unit sales fell slightly from 333 in 2000 to 320 last year, but the average selling price rose from £133,000 to £201,000. Holliday added that Ward's margins were now among the best in the country.

We had one of the best Christmases ever, and the sales have continued to do well this month

David Holliday, chairman, Ward Homes

He also said Ward was looking to expand its retirement home business as part of the company's five-year plan to raise turnover and profit.

The company has made a deal to build retirement units in Hertfordshire while its joint-venture partner Retirement Homes operates them. About 70 of the development's 150 units have been sold and the group is looking at similar developments.

Holliday said: "Our retirement units are worth from £200,000 to nearly £500,000 and are bigger than McCarthy & Stone's, which is the biggest operator in the sector. We are aiming for the upmarket retirement village. There is a market for that."

Holliday said the Kent housing market remained strong despite concerns of a slowdown.