With more than 11,000 people working across its sites in December, the FTSE 100 group said suspending work on developments “will take time” and that it was focusing effort on completing “a number of private and affordable homes which are close to handover”.
The supply of materials to its sites has been facing “increasingly considerable challenges”, the company said.
What's more, like many of its fellow housebuilders, it has been hit by a volley of criticism from the public for keeping its sites open.
Rival Redrow also made a U-turn on keeping its sites open on Friday, with both decisions coming after the government introduced new tighter social distancing measures at the start of the week to limit the spread of the coronavirus, keeping people away from work unless their job was essential, and on Thursday night issuing guidance to effectively shut down the housing market.
@BerkeleyGroupUK @piersmorgan Tony Pidgeley SHUT CONSTRUCTION DOWN NOW TO SAVE LIVES. I can also go to the papers (just like you did to me) to expose that your greedy fat cat company is costing lives. ACT NOW! We all saw St Edwards site on TV last night.— Jennie Simpkin (@JennieSimpkin) March 26, 2020
As for profits, the disruption from closing sites will affect the final six weeks to 30 April of Berkeley's financial year, meaning it now expects profits to be “in the region of £475mln”, having said it was “on track” to meet expectations of around £555mln earlier in the month.
The board said, however, that it still plans to pay out a dividend of 99.32p per share, costing £125mln on 31 March and will return another £140.1mln to shareholders by 30 September through a combination of share buy-backs and dividend.
A reassessment of the company’s position with regard to postponed returns will be provided alongside full year results, which are due in mid-June.
Berkeley shares were down 1.6% to 3,635p by mid-morning on Friday.
Is the private homes development at Bow Common Lane Gas Works essential? Workers aren’t even staying 2m apart. Disgusting that @berkeleygroupuk putting profits before lives. #shutthesites @guardian @BBCNews pic.twitter.com/TMMbsC4a7v— Stacy M. Wright (@runningvlate) March 24, 2020
Construction sites still open? Seems as though Berkeley care more about money, rather than their workers, who put THAT money in their pockets! @BerkeleyGroupUK when are you going to protect your workers? Because without them, you’re institution means nothing! #ShutTheSites— BADDEST BITCH (@lesramiserables) March 23, 2020