Housebuilder says decision was made “in the context of the current increased macro uncertainty”

Berkeley Group’s shares dipped 7% today after the housebuilder announced it was postponing a multi-million pound payout to shareholders, pointing the finger of blame at the coronavirus epidemic.

The housebuilder had been due to hand over £455m to investors by way of a shareholder return but instead said it would put the payout on hold.


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Berkeley said the decision was “made in the context of the current increased macro uncertainty, which has been uniquely impacted by the global spread of coronavirus.

“While there has been no noticeable impact on Berkeley’s business to date, the ultimate impact on UK business is unknown.”

The group said it still intended to make the payout but would assess the situation in its full-year results announcement in June “by when it is indicated the effect of coronavirus will be more measurable and certain”.

It added: “There is no recent historic precedent and for this reason it is absolutely right for any responsible business to approach the next six months with a reduced risk appetite and heightened sense of caution.”

Berkeley has also cancelled its general meeting, due to be held on 18 March.

The construction industry is coming round to the view that the coronavirus will have a serious impact on business.

Firms are bracing themselves for sites to halt work after the World Health Organisation classified the outbreak as a pandemic – meaning the disease is spreading in multiple countries around the world at the same time.

Balfour Beatty chief executive Leo Quinn yesterday told Building that the firm might be forced to shut sites if the spread of the virus got worse in the UK.