Dublin and London listed Irish housebuilder Cairn Homes has announced an operating profit of €15m for the 2017 financial year, on revenue of €149.5m. The company said it was active on eleven developments, up from five at the end of 2016. Those sites should deliver in excess of 3,650 new homes. 

Michael Stanley, CEO of Cairn Homes, said the company was focused mainly on competitively priced starter homes. Of the 11 development it is active on, three are apartment developments. "It's part of the solution to the housing shortages. Land use has traditionally been a challenge for our cities. We didn't make good use of our land. The main sites we have need to be used well," he said.

The company reduced its site acquisitions last year to three from 13 in 2016. Michael Stanley said the vacant site levy was not the reason for this. "We acquired the vast majority of our sites in 2015. It was a once in a career opportunity to acquire high quality, well located development land. We acquired most of our sites within six months of our IPO (initial public offering) in June 2015. We already have a significant land bank. Our main focus is try to build on as many of them as quickly as we can," he explained.

He said comments by Department of Finance officials - released to the Sunday Independent and Sunday Business Post under Freedom of Information - claiming that Cairn was not building enough houses given the extent of its land holdings, were not fair. "The Minister was looking to get an understanding of how housebuilders scale. Our focus is on the quality of the homes we build. We were always going to have to scale in a considered fashion and it would take time," he said. 

"We're building on a third of the 34 sites we have today. That will tip up to half. We've had 10 to 12 years of little construction. We hope to deliver 800 homes this year," he said.

Cairn completed 418 unit sales at an average price of €315,000 - an increase of €20,000 on the average unit sale price in 2016. "That does not reflect house price inflation. It's primarily mixed due to the fact that we sold more units in Marianella (Rathgar development) last year. The average sale price there is higher. Our business model is to bring competitively priced homes in the starter sector, priced in the low €300,000. We've the scale and the landbank to do that," he concluded.

MORNING BRIEFS - Shares in Smurfit Kappa soared this morning after the packaging group confirmed a takeover approach from US group, International Paper Company. The share price rose by almost 20% to over €34 despite the group rejecting the offer which it described as 'unsolicited and highly opportunistic'. Smurfit Kappa said the undisclosed offer did not reflect the group's "true intrinsic business worth".

*** Bank of Ireland has announced a number of senior executive changes as a shakeup under the stewardship of new CEO Francesca McDonagh continues. It includes the departure of chief operating officer, Lewis Love who returned to the bank only about a year and a half ago. Gavin Kelly is to take up the post of CEO of Retail Ireland, the bank's largest division.

*** 2017 was another strong year for merger and acquisition activity, according to William Fry's annual M&A report. A total of 143 deals worth just shy of €15 billion were struck over the year. That represented a near 6% increase in volume terms over the previous year. 

*** Toyota has said it is going to stop production of diesel versions of its cars from this year. The company announced at the Geneva Motor Show that it was going to concentrate largely on self charging hybrid electric cars. Hybrids make up half of Toyota's new car sales here at the moment.