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Barratt Developments reports rise in first half completions and forward sales

Total completions and the average selling price of homes grew in the first half
Barratt Developments
Liberum repeated a 'sell' rating on the stock

Housebuilder Barratt Developments PLC (LON:BDEV) completed 144 more homes in the first half as low interest rates, good mortgage availability and government schemes supported demand.

In a trading update for the six months to December 31, total completions, including joint ventures, rose to 7,324 from 7,180 the same period a year earlier.

READ: Deutsche Bank says land banking review will actually be a positive for housebuilders

The average selling price on completions increased 6.5% to £281,000, compared to £263,800 in the year-ago period.

Average net private reservations per week edged down slightly to 246 from 247 last year while the sales rate was flat at 0.68.

Barratt launched 93 new developments, including joint ventures, compared to 83 last year. It operated from an average of 376 outlets, including joint ventures, up from 374 in 2016.

The company said it continues to expect average active outlet numbers to “grow modestly” for the full year.

Forward sales higher on good demand

Forward sales at December 31 stood at a value of £2.38bn, up 2% on the previous year’s £2.33bn. This included 10,921 plots, compared to 10,520 plots in 2016.

“Given good demand and our healthy forward order book we continue to expect to deliver modest growth in wholly owned completions in fiscal year 2018,” the company said.

During the period, the purchase of £641.2mln worth of operational land, including 51 sites and 13,263 plots, was approved. That compares to £328.2mln of land, including 39 sites and 5,262 plots last year.

The group expects to approve more than 20,000 plots in fiscal year 2018 and continues to target an owned and controlled land bank of around four-and-a-half years at year end.

Net cash at the end of the period was £165mln, down from £196.7mln last year, reflecting land purchases, seasonal trends and £348mln worth of dividends in November, up from £248mln dividends last year.

“We remain committed to delivering our capital return pan and, as previously announced, the board proposes to pay a special dividend of £175mln for the current financial year to be paid in November 2018,” Barratt said.

Liberum repeats 'sell' rating, sees better value elsewhere

Liberum noted that Barratt made no mension of profit margins in its statement as it maintained its 'sell' rating and target price of 575p.

"Barratt is our least preferred housebuilder due to relatively low margins and as we see its dividends as least safe amongst the returners," the broker said.

"Better value in the sector in smaller growing businesses, Bellway PLC (LON:BLWY), Galliford Try plc (LON:GFRD), Gleeson and Redrow plc (LON:RDW).

Shares fell 1.4% to 634.20p each.

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