UPDATE 1-AGA sees sales picking up after first half loss
* H1 pretax loss 2.4 mln stg vs profit 12.3 mln, cuts interim div
* H1 sales 118 mln stg vs 145 mln
* Outlook upbeat as housing market recovers
* Shares up 8.5 pct
(Adds detail, share price)
LONDON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - British upmarket cooker and refigerator maker AGA Rangemaster plc (AGA.L), whose cast iron ovens grace the homes ofactress Kate Winslet and TV chef Jamie Oliver, swung to a loss in the first half of 2009 but sees sales picking up as consumer confidence returns. AGA, which has attracted criticism on its green credentials as well as a loyal fan-base, cut its interim dividend as a slump in the UK housing market dented the company's revenue by 19 percent in the six months to end-June.
But Chief Executive William McGrath pointed to the company's rising cash balance and cost-cutting measures, saying he expected an autumn bounce-back in consumer confidence.
"This year has been about battening down the hatches, but we've done a lot of work preparing for an upturn," McGrath told Reuters.
"We're quite correlated to the housing market. When the housing market slows and mortgage approvals fall away that feeds through into our business, but they're picking up and we expect to see our markets pick up," he said.
British house prices rose for the fourth month running and at their fastest monthly rate in 2-1/2 years in August, said the Nationwide Building society on Thursday [ID:LR635152].
Shares in AGA were up 8.5 percent to 146.5 pence at 09:10 GMT.
(Reporting by Paul Adrian Raymond, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)
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