Markets News

UPDATE 1-UK Homebuilder Berkeley keeps profit guidance, dividend plans

(Adds details on dividend plans, analyst comment, share move)

Sept 4 (Reuters) - British housebuilder Berkeley Group on Friday reiterated its annual profit forecast and stuck by its plans to pay shareholder returns, as it benefited from a rebound in demand for houses after coronavirus-induced restrictions eased.

The company, which operates primarily in London, Birmingham and the South of England, said its sales pricing was robust and above its business plan levels, supported by demand for properties in its under-supplied markets.

British house prices leapt to hit an all-time high in August, mortgage lender Nationwide said on Wednesday, indicating a bounce back in the housing market as production and sales activities resumed after the coronavirus lockdown.

Efficiency levels are now at around 90% of normal production, Berkeley said, although it cautioned that production continues to be impacted by changes in working practices and increased supervision on its sites.

The company said the value of its underlying sales reservations fell about 20% for the first four months of the financial year.

Its shares, down about 4% for the year, slipped 0.8% to 4,608 pence in early trading, in line with the broader FTSE 100 index.

“While we don’t necessarily see lots of short-term value in the shares, investors with slightly longer timescales will see Berkeley deliver a material step-up in output over the next 3-5 years,” Peel Hunt analysts said.

Berkeley said it currently expects to return 280 million pounds ($371.92 million) to shareholders annually. This compares to earlier plans to almost double payouts, which the company had to abandon to shore capital during the pandemic.

$1 = 0.7528 pounds Reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel