Housebuilder issues positive trading update ahead of today's AGM

Barratt Developments has announced record forward sales of £1.4bn. It said the forward sales position at the end of September was 27% higher than the same time last year.

In a trading update ahead of its AGM today, the group said the figures represent the group's 14 th year of consecutive growth, with increases in completions, improved margins, and higher underlying profits.

It said it had secured about 56% of its sales target for the year so far and the full year outcome was in line with expectations.

Looking at the new financial year, Barratt said the housing market remained sound with good buyer confidence with healthy visitor levels to its 460 sites. However, it expressed concern that the recent interest rise "may have a detrimental effect on buyer confidence as we move into 2007".

In a statement Charles Toner, group chairman, said: “ We completed 14,601 homes throughout Britain, an increase of 1.8% over the previous year. Eighty three per cent of these homes were built on brownfield sites.”

He said as a result of underlying profit increasing by 3.4% to £391.4m, the group was recommending a dividend of 20.69p per share bringing the total dividend for the year to 31.03p, an increase of 15%.

The statement also referred to the "tragic accident" involving a crane collapse at its site in Battersea in September, which killed two people.

It said: "The cause of this accident is, as yet, unknown but together with the crane contractor, Falcon Crane Hire, we are co-operating fully with the Police and Health & Safety Executive to assist them with their investigations. The Board of Barratt are deeply saddened by these events and our condolences and heartfelt sympathy go out to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones in this tragic accident."

Toner also thanked David Pretty, the outgoing chief executive, for his contribution to the group. He said: "Under his leadership we have achieved a strengthened land bank and successive years of record volumes and profits. We wish him a long, happy and well-deserved retirement.