Housebuilder revises predictions downwards after 31% fall in reservations since February

Bellway has cut its 2008 profit margin forecast by up to 1.5% points as a result of the housing crisis.

It said figures in the 12 months to 31 July 2008 would be down as a result of a 31% fall in reservations since 1 February.

Bellway employee

A company statement said: “Lower volumes combined with the wider use of incentives will result in the operating margin being eroded by 1–1.5% when compared with the figure for last year of 18.7%.”

As a result of the credit crisis, which has hit mortgage availability, Bellway has also revised its sales volume estimates downwards.

“Whilst we had anticipated a fall of around 5–10% in the number of homes sold, compared to last year’s level of 7,638, it is now expected that the fall will be in the range of 10-15%.”

It also said it was only buying land on a “highly selective basis” and that conditions were worse in the Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West while the Thames Gateway and Scotland had been more resilient.

Last month it emerged Bellway had cut 15% of its workforce (370 jobs) as a result of the downturn. The figure is in line with other housebuilders.

Despite Bellway’s 31% fall in reservations since 1 February, it is understood the figure has deteriorated markedly since April. Confidential HBF figures show the average fall across its members in April and May was closer to 60%.

Its order book stands at £706m (2007: £845m), which it said was underpinned by its increasing exposure to the social housing market. It says social housing output would increase in coming years.

Citigroup analyst Aynsley Lammin said the figures showed there was still no light at the end of the tunnel for housebuilders. “Although Bellway has a relatively strong balance sheet and land bank, the sector is likely to continue to struggle until there is more visibility over the trough in this cycle.”