Tony Pidgley, chairman of Berkeley Group, said the housing market stabilised in the year to 30 April 2010 but not to the extent that the residential developer would pay shareholders a dividend
Announcing a 12% fall in turnover to £615m last week, Pidgley said: “Berkeley’s strategy is to maximise shareholder value in a sustainable and safe way over the long term. At present, the board believes that greatest value will be achieved through land acquisition, investing in work in progress and opportunistic share purchases, as opposed to declaring a dividend.”
The consensus expectation was a dividend of 10p per share.
Despite admitting to a “growing sense the worst is over”, he remained cautious amid the austerity measures being imposed by the government.
He said: “Such reviews and changes in policy are inevitable and necessary. Most important is that hard work and innovation are rewarded and growth is encouraged. In our own industry, this means a continued and concerted commitment from the private and public sector to work together to address the shortage in supply of quality housing.”
Pre-tax profit fell 8% to £110m and the company ended the year with net cash of £317m, which compares to the net debt position of most of its listed peers.
Although completions rose from 1,501 to 2,201, the average selling price fell from £395,000 to £263,000. Transaction levels are still 40% below what was the historic average.
It produced an operating margin of 17.3%.
Managing director Rob Perrins, the heir apparent to the company founded by Pidgley, said results had been boosted by the weakness of Sterling and the appetite of overseas investors although this was tempered by domestic economic and political uncertainty and restrictions around mortgage finance.
The company added 2,200 plots across 20 sites over the year, which Cammack said was disappointing although outweighed by the positive trading numbers, which were at the upper end of expectations.