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Stewart Milne Group announces £2m loss and a strong start to 2010

Stewart Milne Group, one of Scotland’s largest house builders, has reported a turnover of £276m and a net loss before tax and exceptionals of £2m for the year to June 2009 and, within the context of recent trading conditions, is a robust response to a difficult marketplace.

Overall, the Group reported a pre-tax loss of £27m, which included exceptional items related to restructuring costs, and landimpairment amounting to £25m. With those non recurring costs removed, the actual net loss before tax was £2m. The Group made a trading profit of £25m in the year to June 2008.

Group turnover for the period fell in line with market conditions, from £420m to £276m. Chairman & Chief Executive, Stewart Milne, is very positive about the Group’s prospects.

Stewart Milne said:
“Market conditions over the past year were exceptionally challenging. However, we are in a healthy position with a very strong balance sheet. We are very well placed to grow and increase our market share.

The overall loss, whilst disappointing, is largely due to one-off costs of restructuring our business and adjusting the value of some of our land to reflect market conditions. A trading loss of £2m after a profit of £25m last year – also in difficult market conditions – represents an acceptable performance. We are financially secure and well positioned to take advantage of an upturn in market conditions, the evidence of which is already starting to appear.”

The Group’s confidence was underpinned by the launch of five new developments in the last two quarters. Sales for 2009/10 have started well with an increase of around 20% over 2008/9. Visitor levels and web traffic are also showing improvements.

Milne concluded:
“We are committed to growing our business and increasing market share. We are on track to succeed, despite the challenging market conditions we have dealt with over the last two years.”

Group Managing Director, Glenn Allison said:
“We have performed well over the last year considering the difficult market conditions we faced. In addition to trading at close to breakeven, before our one-off costs, we have generated a significant amount of cash during the year, and that has continued during our current financial period.

The financial year has started very positively with Homes sales around 20% ahead of last year and sales for our Timber Systems ahead by a similar level.

The underlying demand remains strong and we are meeting customer needs. However the lack of availability of mortgages remains a major concern and an ongoing threat to our industry.

Our focus going forward will be on strategic land, our customers and in developing further sustainable product, aimed at delivering the Governments requirement for low carbon homes.”

The company has always held a reputation for innovation and in keeping with their market leading position, have joined forces with some of the UKS leading companies to research and develop low carbon homes, through the Government backed AIMC4 consortium. Other members include Barratt Developments PLC, Crest Nicholson PLC, Oxford Brookes University, H+H UK Ltd and BRE. The 3-year project will see a series of code level 4 homes built across the UK.

2009 has also been an award winning year for the Group with awards from What House Awards and, in October, the “Housebuilding Innovator of the Year Award for medium sized house builders”.

Allison said: “We have a highly experienced team of people and will continue to lead the market in our innovative approach to developing and building for the future, while focusing on meeting customer needs.

We don’t expect market conditions to improve overnight but we have been performing to our expectations since our last year end and expect that to continue”.

The company is very positive about their prospects, and Stewart Milne concluded: “Our destiny is in our own hands and I believe we have the people in place to start moving the business forward again as market conditions allow, to take us to the levels of growth we have planned.”

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