(Recasts, adds CEO quotes, details)
By Costas Pitas
LONDON Feb 22 Britain's biggest housebuilder
Barratt said it will build around 20 percent fewer
homes in London in 2016/17 and nationwide completions were
unlikely to grow very much despite government efforts to boost
Barratt is the second major developer to say this week that
it would not be building significantly more homes for now after
smaller rival Bovis said its volumes would fall by
between 10 and 15 percent in 2017.
Britain this month outlined plans to change planning laws
and potentially take land from developers who hold it for too
long. The government wants to increase the number of new homes
built from 190,000 to at least 250,000 per year.
Barratt, which posted a 9 percent rise in pre-tax profit to
321 million pounds ($400 million) in the six months to the end
of December, said rising land prices in the capital meant it had
not replaced developed sites with new plots at the same pace.
"We had around 2,000 completions in London last year and
we'd expect this year to be around 1,600 completions," Chief
Executive David Thomas told Reuters on Wednesday.
"What we've seen over the last few years, is a very, very
competitive land market particularly in the central zones in
London and that's meant that we haven't purchased new sites in
zone 1 or the edge of zone 2 for more than two years."
Barratt reported a 6 percent drop in the number of homes it
built in the last six months of 2016 to 7,180 units, pushed down
by an over 50 percent fall in London.
The centre of London has also become less attractive to
developers as sales prices fell over the last 12 months due to
an increased stamp duty property tax on top-end properties and
Brexit deterring some foreign investors.
The company said it would pay an interim dividend of 7.3
pence per share, up from 6 pence a year ago. Its shares rose 2.3
percent by 0955 GMT.
Barratt said it expected full-year volumes to be flat at
around 17,300 units after a combined increase of 55 percent in
the last five financial years but that it was also important to
maintain quality and customer satisfaction.
Bovis has faced a backlash from some buyers in recent months
who have criticised it for substandard building work, forcing it
to spend an extra 7 million pounds to carry out repair work at
some of its properties.
($1 = 0.8004 pounds)
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Paul Sandle and Keith