* Sees return to profit, stable sales in 2009
* Says orders in France better at end-Q1 2009 vs end-2008
* Sees debt-to-equity ratio improving
PARIS, April 2 (Reuters) - Les Nouveaux Constructeurs (NVC.PA), a small-cap property group founded by the nephew of former French President Francois Mitterrand, expects to return to profit and stable sales in 2009 following its decision to refocus its operations on France.
Severely hit by the burst of the housing bubble, the company posted its first loss since the 1990’s housing crisis, but Chief Executive Olivier Mitterrand said on Thursday he expected the French property market to recover.
France now represents 60 percent of its revenue, compared with 50 percent at end-2007. It made a loss of 45.5 million euros ($60.72 million), against 26.4 million the previous year.
“Considering the recovery on the French market in 2009 ... we don’t expect large variations in our revenue,” he said. “Les Nouveaux Constructeurs will return to profitability in 2009”.
He said orders in France appeared “clearly better” at the end of the first quarter of 2009 than at the end of last year, and he still expects its debt-to-equity ratio to drop to 100 percent at end-2009, from 131 percent in 2008.
Following the sharp deterioration of the property markets, Les Nouveaux Constructeurs decided to close subsidiaries abroad, to cut staff by 15 percent to 20 percent and to sell 500 projects with a 10 percent to 15 percent discount.
Shares in Les Nouveaux Constructeurs were up 4.6 percent by 1225 GMT on Thursday, but have plunged more than 81 percent since it went public at end-2006, from 21 euros to 2.9 euros. (Reporting by Juliette Rouillon and Michel Rose; Editing by Marcel Michelson and Andrew Macdonald) ($1=.7493 Euro)