Profits hit at Grainger but sales improve

PROPERTY company Grainger said yesterday sales in the year to end-September had risen by 21.6 per cent, but trading profit would be hit by lower house prices and more sales to investors.<br /><br />The group, which is Britain&rsquo;s largest quoted residential landlord, sold about &pound;220m of property in the 12 months, with sales from its core and retirement portfolios flat year-on-year at about &pound;169m.<br /><br />Grainger said it remained cautious in its near-term outlook for the housing market, but it noted some stability had returned and selling prices in September were only 0.7 per cent lower than a year ago.<br /><br />The firm also said that it had made &pound;47m in its development division by selling non-core assets, and a successful sale of its residential development in Islington.<br /><br />Chief executive Rupert Dickinson yesterday announced he would be standing down due to ill health.<br /><br />The group said that Dickinson would be replaced by finance director Andrew Cunningham, who has been acting chief executive for the company since May.<br /><br />Dickinson has been chief executive of the group since 2002. Cunningham has acted as a director of the company since 1996.<br /><br />Earlier this month Grainger had struck a deal with a consortium of banks over its lending facilities. The new agreement will see the residential property landlord not having to pay off &pound;900m of maturing debt until 2011. Grainger said that the refinancing deal will now give the group sufficient financial headroom.<br /><br />KBC Peel hunt analyst JohnCahill said: &ldquo;The statement is slightly above our forecasts. Grainger has again demonstrated its ability to trade away from the edge and, though an equity raising remains likely. this will not be in distressed circumstances.&rdquo;<br />