Bellway predicts record year as profits and completions jump

BellwayHousebuilder Bellway has forecasted a record increase in margins following an “excellent start” to the current financial year.

In a trading update on Friday, the group predicted operating margins in the current financial year will increase to at least 21 per cent as both average prices and completions are expected to rise by 10 per cent in the year to July 2016. Reservation rates are up by 12 per cent to 165 homes per week during the first 18 weeks.

The upbeat comments from chief executive Ted Ayres come after the group struck a record performance during the 12 months to the end of July, when profits nearly doubled to £354 million on an all-time high of 7,752 home sales.

Operating profit margins continue to rise as the group acquired better-quality sites, and should reach at least 21 per cent against an average of 20.4 per cent last year, the company said yesterday. This in turn is expected to drive up the return on capital.

“The group is committed to its strategy of creating shareholder value through disciplined volume growth and increasing the supply of much-needed new homes,” Ayres said at the company’s annual meeting.

“The measures announced in the government’s recent autumn statement, particularly in relation to the amendments to the Help to Buy scheme in London and its extension in England until 2021, not only provide access to mortgages for home buyers but also provide further visibility in relation to the longer-term outlook when assessing land opportunities.”

Customer demand has been strong throughout the traditionally quieter summer months. Together with a stronger autumn selling season, that has lifted the average number of weekly reservations by 12 per cent to 165. The group’s most recently opened operating divisions, located in Bristol and Kent, are both attracting strong interest. Average prices in the five months to December rose by 5.8 per cent to £252,100.

Further brownfield sites have been acquired, all meeting or exceeding minimum acquisition criteria on gross margin and return on capital employed. And although the company spent £235m on land and land creditors, net debt has fallen from £162m to £136m, leaving Bellway with just 8 per cent gearing.

A trading update will be issued on Wednesday 10 February 2016 following the conclusion of the six month trading period ending 31 January 2016.

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