Emerson slips into the red

EMERSON Group, one of the largest private housebuilders in the UK, halved the number of homes it built in the year to April due to depressed demand from first-time buyers.<br /><br />The company said it decided not to follow other industry players in offering discounts of up to 30 per cent on new properties, instead completing 203 homes at close to standard prices. It built 413 houses the year before.<br /><br />Emerson recorded a pre-tax loss of &pound;6.2m, as turnover fell 27.4 per cent and sterling&rsquo;s slide against the yen bit a &pound;24.6m hole in the company&rsquo;s foreign borrowing costs.<br /><br />The group also marked its 50th birthday with the first ever loss from its residential business, where profits declined &pound;20.7m to land the division &pound;3.4m in the red.<br /><br />Shareholders lost 13 per cent as &pound;90m write-downs pushed the value of Emerson&rsquo;s commercial property portfolio to &pound;607m.<br /><br />Emerson is chaired by septuagenarian property magnate Peter Jones and has operations reaching from its base in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, to Portugal and the US. It includes the Jones Homes and Orbit Developments brands.<br /><br />In accounts filed with Companies House, Jones said: &ldquo;The future outlook, though encouraging, is still fragile and our business is reliant on the wider economy and confidence. With a general election on the horizon, let us hope for a stabilisation in the financial markets.&rdquo;<br /><br />He added: &ldquo;I sense a pent-up interest on the part of purchasers wishing to acquire properties and if the correct measures are introduced, it is hopefully only a matter of time before the residential market begins to return to normal.&rdquo;