Strength of housing market in sharp focus as Persimmon unveils full-year figures

One of Britain’s biggest homebuilders will this week provide a sounding on the strength of the housing market amid government efforts to maintain confidence.

Persimmon is one of the biggest housebuilders in the UK with a string of completed projects and development schemes in Scotland. Picture: Kimberley Powell

Persimmon’s full-year results and trading update will be keenly awaited amid the potential for an extension to the stamp duty land tax exemption. Its figures are due on Wednesday morning, ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s crunch Covid Budget.

Persimmon’s new chief executive, Dean Finch, gave an upbeat full-year update in January so the focus is likely to be on the company’s assessment of the housing market in 2021, and beyond.

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Analysts will also look for any additional comment from the firm on its ongoing efforts to address prior customer concerns over build quality and cladding on high-rise buildings.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “The extension of Help to Buy will doubtless be seen as good news by management, since 43 per cent of 2019’s completions were aided by the scheme. Overall demand looks to have held up well, judging by a £1.7 billion forward order book.

“The real focus will be any guidance that Persimmon gives on volumes, pricing, costs and margins for 2021, considering its views on the wider housing market, where recent mortgage approvals data has been very strong.

“For the moment, analysts expect a 7 per cent increase in sales to £3.6bn and an 11 per cent jump in pre-tax profit to £947 million for 2021 and then a further profit gain to £990m in 2022 – although that is still below the £1bn peak of 2019.”

Steve Clayton, Manager of HL Select funds for financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Investors will be keen to hear Persimmon’s views about how stamp duty changes will impact, and whether cladding rectification costs can still be contained. All-important though will be guidance on the group’s future capital return plans.”

Mould added: “Persimmon ended 2020 with around £1.2bn in net cash and management sanctioned the resumption of dividend payments after the cancellation of the planned payments for calendar 2019.

“Persimmon has so far declared two interim payments for 2020, one of 40p a share and one of 70p, and analysts believe the firm will return to its pre-pandemic plan of 125p a share interim payment and a 110p final dividend in fiscal 2021.”

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