Housebuilder reports 30% rise in pre-tax profit but analysts note ‘disappointing’ UK performance

City analysts responded cautiously to results this week from housebuilder Taylor Woodrow – the first sign of concern in the sector since the start of the reporting season.

Despite announcing a pre-tax profit of £390m for 2004, 30% higher than the previous year, analysts were quick to point out that the North American part of the business was stronger than the domestic.

Taywood said it wanted to “sound a slight note of caution about the UK in 2005 because we have only been trading for seven weeks”, but added that it was bullish about North America.

The statement was in contrast to that of Peter Johnson and John White, chief executives of George Wimpey and Persimmon respectively, who have been more upbeat about prospects for 2005.

Iain Napier, Taywood’s chief executive, said the integration of Wilson Connolly was complete, and operating profit for UK housing had risen 22% to £301m. Operating profit in North America rose 42% to £127.6m.

In 2004, the company completed 9053 homes in the UK, up 18%, at an average selling price of £197,300, up 9%. The company did not reveal the size of its forward order book, but said that it was bigger than at the same time last year.

Alastair Stewart, analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, said: “The concern is a lack of guidance plan on volumes, prices and build costs going forward. They have given far less tangible guidance than some of the housebuilders.”

David Taylor, analyst at Teather and Greenwood, also expressed scepticism. He said: “The results were positive on the face of it, but the performance hides a disappointing UK performance, particularly on the margin front.”

However, Taywood said its international presence was a great strength and encouragement to investors for 2005.