Vistry delivers dividend cheer as lockdowns fail to knock new homes demand

PA

Housebuilder Vistry Group has revealed it will resume dividend payouts as it said national coronavirus lockdowns have failed to dent demand for new homes.

The firm saw its underlying weekly private sales rate per outlet surge by a fifth over the final six weeks of 2020, with reservations continuing throughout the November lockdown and December.

It added it had seen “no impact” on demand so far from the latest lockdown across England as Britain’s property market boom showed no sign of abating despite the relentless second wave of the pandemic.

The group is now expecting full-year pre-tax profits at the top end of its forecast, at around £140 million, as a robust second half offset losses in the first six months of 2020.

And it expects profits for 2021 to leap to £310 million despite the pandemic and planned end of the stamp duty holiday on March 31.

Vistry cheered investors by announcing it would restart dividends with a “modest” final divi when it unveils annual results next month.

Greg Fitzgerald, chief executive of Vistry, said the move comes after a “strong second-half performance”, with its weekly sales rate rising by 15% over the final six months of 2020.

The UK housing market has been firing on all cylinders since the Government delivered a temporary stamp duty holiday on the purchase of homes of up to £500,000, while demand has also been boosted by changing needs due to the shift to homeworking.

The most recent Halifax house price index showed prices surged 6% over 2020 to end the year at a record high of £253,374.

But there are concerns the market boom may fizzle out once the stamp duty perk ends.

Vistry said: “We are alert to the wider market uncertainty, including the potential implications of the most recent lockdown, as well as for housebuilding specifically the changes from an end to the stamp duty holiday and existing Help to Buy scheme at the end of the first quarter.

“We are encouraged by the strength of the market in 2020 and the levels of demand during the second national lockdown in November, and whilst very early, we have seen no impact from this third national lockdown.”

The company was formed in January last year, after Bovis Homes merged with Linden Homes, which it had bought from Galliford Try alongside its Partnerships and Regeneration units for £1.1 billion.

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