Barratt enjoying mini-boom in housing market after lockdown profit pain

Investors holding shares in Barratt Developments will be forced to wait for the housebuilding giant to pay out another dividend after profit nearly halved in the most recent financial year.

Barratt Developments is one of the biggest housebuilders in the UK and has a string of developments across Scotland.

The 12 months to 30 June proved a tough time for the business, as its pre-tax profit fell 46 per cent to £491.8 million on revenues of £3.42 billion, a decline of 28 per cent.

The group, which like its peers was hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown, completed 5,252 fewer homes than the previous year, a drop of 29 per cent, as non-essential building sites were forced to close for weeks during the early stages of the pandemic.

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The company took a £74.3m hit and said investors will have to wait until “the time is right” to get another shareholder payout. Last year’s dividend was 46.4p per share.

Some £45.2m of the hit was related to safety costs and the cost of leaving sites empty, with the remaining £29.1m down to delays in construction.

Chief executive David Thomas said: “While Covid-19 has had a significant impact on our results, our priority has been to keep our people safe, mitigate the effect of the pandemic on our business and be able to emerge from the crisis in a resilient position.

“Although uncertainties remain, all of our sites are operational, we are seeing very strong consumer demand and our robust financial position means we enter the new financial year with cautious optimism.

“We are now renewing our focus on our medium-term targets, on leading the industry in quality and service, and on supporting jobs and economic growth by building the homes the country needs.”

The company said it had initially claimed £26m from the UK government to cover the salaries of its employees – the majority of whom were furloughed. It has since made the decision to return this cash.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Barratt’s full-year results show just how badly the coronavirus hit the housebuilder.

“But all of Barratt’s operational sites reopened by 30 June, and since then customers have been flocking back to showrooms. The pent up interest has inevitably also been fuelled by the stamp duty holiday and the company says a robust financial position means that the firm is entering the new financial year with ‘cautious optimism’.

“That has, no doubt, been helped by the summer mini boom in the housing market. But the real question is how long will this last, given that the UK is still reeling from a brutal 20.4 per cent economic contraction between April and June.

“The next few months are crucial for Barratt because… an extended recession would prove an even tougher test.”

Adam Vettese, analyst at multi-asset investment platform eToro, noted: “With Covid-19 resulting in the closure of the property market, it’s no surprise that Barratt’s full-year financials are disappointing. However, house sales have rebounded incredibly strongly in the past two months, a sign of how much demand there is present in the current market.”

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