April 29, 2020 / 7:10 AM / a month ago

REFILE-UPDATE 1-Housebuilder Persimmon begins phased restart as forward sales dip

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April 29 (Reuters) - British housebuilder Persimmon said on Wednesday it had begun a phased restart of construction and seen good levels of new customer inquiries through the coronavirus lockdown, boding well for the resilience of the housing market later this year.

The country’s second-largest homebuilder, which has not furloughed staff under the government’s aid scheme, also said its forward sales, including homes completed, had fallen 11% to 2.4 billion pounds so far in 2020 compared to the same period a year ago.

Average private sales per site, however, were around 10% higher year-on-year, it said, while its average selling price was about 244,500 pounds, compared to 237,850 pounds last year.

Shares in the company dipped 2% at opening.

It said it had restarted work on its construction sites earlier this week following government guidance to get the construction sector back online.

“‍The government has been clear that it wants UK’s housebuilders to get back to building and this week we have started phased process of getting back to work safely on site,” Chief Executive Officer Dave Jenkinson said.

In a bid to preserve cash, the FTSE-100 company has already cancelled its dividend payments for the year and executives have given up cash bonuses and taken a temporary 20% reduction in base salary.

Persimmon said the board had thoroughly stress-tested its financial position and were confident of the company’s future prospects. ($1 = 0.8020 pounds) (Reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Patrick Graham)

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