Barratt looks on the bright side as sales rise in the first quarter

 
Emma Haslett
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Shares in Barratt fell this morning, despite a trading update showing sales had risen more than eight per cent in its first quarter.

The figures

In a trading update this morning, the housebuilder said total forward sales between July and November had risen 8.4 per cent on the year before, to £2.9bn.

The company said it made 0.74 net private reservations per active site per week, the same as last year, with 79 new developments launched during the period, pushing its total up to 373, up from 370 during the same period last year.

It added that it had bought £505.5m of land, more than double the £200.2m it had bought at the same point last year, which equates to 37 sites or 9,498 plots.

Investors weren't impressed: shares fell as much as 1.5 per cent to 618p in early trading.

Why it's interesting

It has been a tale of two sectors for housebuilders this quarter: while Persimmon's rather disappointing results sent housebuilders into a two-day spiral, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt showed more encouraging signs.

Barratt remained positive, despite threats from stamp duty and the interest rate hike, which some have warned will hit housing transactions, saying it had had a strong start to the year supported by a positive market backdrop.

But despite its upbeat attitude, analysts at Shore Capital said the figures suggested the company was adopting a cautious approach. "It is clear that Barratt still intends to keep its volume growth to a minimum," they said.

What Barratt said

Chief executive David Thomas said:

We have started the financial year strongly with a good sales rate, driven by customer demand for new homes, and supported by an attractive lending environment. We remain committed to quality, build excellence and market leading customer service and are working hard to increase the supply of houses across the UK.

We remain focused on driving operational improvements through the business and we continue to be confident in delivering a good performance in 2018.