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Boss announces retirement as Crest Nicholson profit falls

Crest reported it had been hit by the same slowdown as impacted many of its rivals last year (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Crest reported it had been hit by the same slowdown as impacted many of its rivals last year (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The boss of housebuilder Crest Nicholson has announced his departure as the company posted a largely expected major reduction in its profits.

Crest said that its adjusted pre-tax profit was £41.4 million in the year to the end of October, down from £137.8 million a year earlier.

It was a little lower than the £46.8 million that analysts had forecast, but Crest put this down to an extra £5.5 million charge to its books after a review of some of its poorer-performing sites.

The business told shareholders that it had put aside £13 million to cover a legal claim for a 2021 fire in one of its low-rises.

Crest already flagged a week ago that it expected profit to be just around £41 million for the year, and warned of the £13 million fire charge.

Shares in the FTSE 250 group rose slightly on Tuesday morning.

Peter Truscott took the opportunity to announce that he would retire as chief executive and a member of Crest’s board after a five-year stint. The company had found a replacement in Martyn Clark, currently the chief commercial officer at larger rival Persimmon.

Mr Clark will take on the position later this year and Mr Truscott will remain with the company during a handover period, Crest told shareholders.

Chair Iain Ferguson said: “Martyn brings a wealth of experience in the housebuilding industry which will be of huge benefit to Crest Nicholson at this important time for the group. We very much look forward to working with him.

“Peter has led the Group through a very difficult and challenging period and has ensured that he hands over a business well positioned to take Crest Nicholson forward.”

That “difficult” period has included the pandemic and the impact on building sites that lockdowns brought, but also recent hikes to interest rates, which have hit the house-buying market.

Crest’s slowdown over the last year mirrored many of its rivals. Revenue dropped by 28% to £657.5 million as the business said it had completed around 700 fewer homes at 2,020.

Sales per outlet week – a key measure for the industry – was 0.52, compared to 0.60 a year earlier.

Mr Truscott said that the results were “disappointing,” but that there were some shoots of hope for the recovery.

“Recently there has been some positive macro trends with inflation and mortgage rates falling, which bode well for the housing sector,” he said.

“Although it is too early to gauge customer behaviour, we have been encouraged by an increase in customer interest levels and inquiries this calendar year. However, we remain mindful of ongoing uncertainties within the broader economy.”