Last April, when Barratt shares were trading at more than £11, must seem a long time ago to chief executive Mark Clare. Back then, he had just bought Wilson Bowden and his firm had a market cap of about £4.5bn.
Today its share price is 350p and its market cap is £1.2bn, less than the value of its debt (£1.5bn). Little wonder Clare is preparing to offload Wilson Bowden’s commercial development arm in a bid to reduce its debt pile. The City thinks it could fetch as much as £250m, which is a good start.
On the other hand, Tuesday’s RICS survey indicated the housing market is now at its lowest ebb in more than 30 years. News that inflation is still rising is likely to prevent the Bank of England from cutting interest rates again soon.
Despite this, HBOS insisted that demand is outstripping supply. That may sound rich from a company whose share price nosedived because of its exposure to the mortgage market, but it’s a reminder that housebuilder shares may prove good buys in the long term.