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Berkeley building more than in 2008

Berkeley Homes said it is building more homes than just before the financial crisis in 2008.

In an interim results for the six months to 31 October, the firm said it was building on all its vacant sites that have a “viable planning consent” and had built 15,000 new homes over five years.

However in 2008 the company was already mothballing some large regeneration sites and reshaping its business to weather the housing crash.

Following the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday that owners of UK homes living abroad would have to pay capital gains tax on sales, the firm issued a warning over property taxes.

It said: “Berkeley has the capacity to invest further, which would create more homes and jobs, but is concerned by the increased uncertainty created by the ongoing debates surrounding the future of property taxation and international buyers.”

Berkeley Group’s pre tax profits were up nearly 19 per cent to £169.5m in the six months to 31 October 2013 from £142.2m in the same period a year earlier.

Its revenues rose nearly 20 per cent to £821m from £686m in the same period. Its operating margin was 20.7 per cent in first half of 2013.

The company’s net cash rose to £78.9m from £44.7m. Consequently its chairman Tony Pidgley said Berkeley was on course with its plan to return £1.7bn in cash to shareholders by September 2021. It will pay shareholders a dividend of 90p per share in January 2014.

The firm said its tower at One St George Wharf in Vauxhall was currently ahead of its construction schedule and most completions should be delivered in the second half of this financial year. Should the scheme continue on this timetable then the company said group earnings should grow to “towards the top of the range of analysts’ current expectations”. The firm will release a trading schedule in March 2014 which will give an update on the project.

The group’s land holdings rose to 25,060 plots from 25,684 plots in 30 April 2013.

The average selling price of its homes rose £15,000 to £350,000 in the first half of 2013 compared to 2012 across its private, affordable and student residential schemes. The figure includes the sale of 534 properties from Berkeley’s rental fund to M&G Investments.

It said the government’s Help to Buy scheme had benefitted the housing market but had limited impact on Berkley’s schemes. It had been used on 117 of the company’s sales since it launched “predominantly on developments outside London where market demand is led by owner-occupiers”.

The company said the scheme accounts for just 5 per cent of Berkeley’s total transactions, but 30 per cent of sales on the 14 sites where it can be used.

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