Berkeley share price: Group updates on recent trading ahead of AGM

on Sep 8, 2015
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Berkeley Group (LON:BKG) which was promoted to the FTSE 100 index last week, has updated investors on its recent performance this morning.

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**Highlights from the company statement:**
At the Annual General Meeting of The Berkeley Group Holdings plc (“Berkeley” or “the Group”) which is being held today, the Chairman, Tony Pidgley CBE, will make the following Interim Management Statement which covers the period from 1 May 2015 to 31 August 2015:

“Since the start of the financial year, Berkeley has continued to invest in the business, contracting to purchase five new sites and further investing in build to deliver the enhanced profitability over the next three years as previously guided.

A stable operating environment, supported by a decisive General Election result in May, has maintained normal transaction levels in the market across our sites with underlying reservations in the period in line with last year. The combination of good demand fundamentals, the lack of supply of good quality new homes in London and the South of England, continued low interest rates and a growing economy underpin this market.

Steady sales in the period mean that cash due on forward sales over the next three years has been maintained at the levels previously reported. In July we successfully launched our new scheme at South Quay Plaza in Docklands to the UK market, which continues to mean that all of Berkeley’s schemes with an implementable planning consent are in construction.

In respect of its land holdings, the Group has contracted to acquire a 2.6 acre site at West End Green in Paddington on an unconditional basis. St William, the Group’s joint venture with National Grid plc, continues to make good progress and has now contracted on three sites since its formation in November 2014 at Battersea, Rickmansworth and, in this period, Fulham. Good progress has been made on unlocking existing land with a further four new consents and six consents enhancing existing schemes.

The disposal of a second portfolio of the Group’s ground rent assets for £53 million, which completed on 25 August 2015, has benefited operating cash flow in a period which has also seen further net investment in land and build. The Group currently expects to remain ungeared following the dividend payment of 90 pence per share (£122.9 million) on 17 September 2015, with the actual level of cash at the half year dependent on the timing of land payments. This dividend will complete the first milestone of 434 pence per share against the long-term plan to return £13 per share to shareholders by 2021.
A further 433 pence per share is payable by September 2018 and 433 pence per share by September 2021. The Board maintains its guidance that it plans to meet the September 2018 milestone through regular equal dividends over the period, subject always to prevailing market conditions, and to use any surplus capital generated to reinvest in the business or to fund further dividend payments or share buybacks if appropriate.
Following this positive start to the year, the Board reiterates its previous guidance on earnings in the region of £2 billion to be delivered in aggregate over the next three years to 30 April 2016, 2017 and 2018.”

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