* Says Russian real estate still below pre-crisis levels
* Expects strong growth in 2012 and 2013
* 2011 net profit up 64 pct to $253 mln (Releads, Adds CEO comment, detail)
MOSCOW, March 19 (Reuters) - Russian housebuilder Etalon said on Monday the country’s real estate market was still some way off pre-crisis levels and would continue to grow at least into 2013, prompting it to seek several new projects.
The company, which builds houses mainly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, said it contracted 270,000 square metres of property across both cities in 2011, compared to an adjusted 440,000 square metres for St. Petersburg alone in 2008.
“2012 is off to a strong start and we believe that the recovery will develop further, supporting our cash collections and new contract sales. We have every reason to look towards 2012 and 2013 with confidence,” Etalon president Viacheslav Zarenkov said in a statement.
His comments came after Etalon posted 2011 net income up 64 percent to $253 million, on the back of a 16 percent growth in revenue to $774 million.
“Our balanced debt maturity profile, solid track record and $490 million of expansion capital will enable us to continue to acquire high quality projects and provide a perfect growth platform for the years to come,” Zarenkov added.
Etalon raised $575 million in a London initial public offering just under a year ago in order to take advantage of an expected market recovery. Russia’s real estate market froze in the wake of the last financial crisis, but delayed and new projects are now coming back on line.
Etalon shares opened slightly higher at $6.79, just below the $7 IPO price. Investors in the company have been on a roller coaster ride, seeing the stock fall to $2 a share last October before staging a recovery.
The company launched a share buyback when the shares hit bottom, but abandoned it earlier this month as the share price rise made it illogical. (Reporting By John Bowker; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Mark Potter)