UK housebuilder Berkeley Group saw its pre-tax profit rise 19.2 per cent to 169.2m pounds in the first half, driven by strong demand in the housing sector.
Revenue jumped 19.7% to £821m in the six months ended October 31st as the company sold 2,294 new homes in the period, up from 1,927 last year.
Operating profit, which includes £29.6m on disposal of 534 investment properties to M&G Investments, increased 16% to £169.6m.
Basic earnings per share increased by 22% to 100p per share.
During the period the group invested £278m in land, acquiring a further 1,754 plots.
The estimated future gross margin in its land holdings has climbed £195m to £3.04bn, reaching the firm's target of growing to over £3bn some 18 months earlier than anticipated.
Berkeley has remained cash generative, starting and ending the period ungeared with net cash of £78.9m.
"This performance maintains the board's view that Berkeley is on course to meet the first milestone payment of £568m by September 2015 and to return £1.7bn in cash to shareholders no later than September 2021," said Chairman Anthony Pidgley.
The group raised its interim dividend to 90p per share from 15p last year.
Pidgley warned that the long-term challenge for the UK is the significant housing shortfall which continues to grow.
The housing sector has been boosted by government programmes including Help to Buy and Funding for Lending.
International specialist staffing business SThree said it expects full-year gross profit to fall 5% to £200m reflecting lack of demand for permanent employees.
In a trading update for the year ended December 1st, the company said permanent gross profit was down 14% year-on-year.
Contract work gross profit was up 4% year-on-year as growth across Europe and the Rest of the World offset a decline of 4% in the UK. Contract accounts for 56% of total group profit.
Permanent headcount has increased by 8% and contract headcount is up by 9% since the half year.
"Contract continued to benefit from a greater strategic focus and our investment in headcount, with encouraging growth in contract runners and gross profit," said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gary Elden.
"Our Permanent business continued to feel the effects of the resourcing issues that we highlighted at the interims, but with Permanent consultant headcount up 8% since the half year, we expect to see an improved performance from this business in 2014."
He said overall the market saw improvement in a number of markets during the second half of the year but the "picture remains mixed and it is still too early to call a broadly-based recovery".
Looking ahead, the CEO said the strength the contract book and an improving permanent pipeline point to a more encouraging picture.
The restructuring undertaken in the second half provides the group with a solid platform for growth as we head in to the new financial year, he added.
Full year profit before tax and exceptional items is expected to be between £21m-£22m.