Berkeley upbeat as sales and land bank grow

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e builder Berkeley Group performed better than expected in the four months since May and now expects to reach its five-year profit target at least two years early, it has said.

In an upbeat trading statement, Berkeley said since it revealed its five-year growth strategy in May its forward sales had grown to in excess of £850m and it had secured seven new property sites in the past three months alone.

The FTSE 250-listed group, which focuses on London and the South East, said it had been granted improved planning consents on schemes in Battersea, Kew, North Bersted and Gillingham among others.

Chairman Tony Pidgley said in a statement due to be read at the annual general meeting that Berkeley was now reliant on market conditions to achieve its further growth.

Pidgley said the group’s regional focus was an advantage and “has enabled it to outperform despite the well publicised wider market challenges we are experiencing.”

“Since the original plan was announced in May 2010, trading has been ahead of management expectations and Berkeley has achieved a significant number of planning consents and invested in work in progress in line with its strategy,” he said.

The news sent Berkeley shares up 3.2 per cent in early trading despite a 1.5 per cent fall in the FTSE 250.

But Shore Capital analyst Jon Bell warned that lack of availability of mortgages was a risk to the business.

“While we continue to admire the Berkeley business model and its exposure to London and the south east, the company is not immune to the ongoing issues in the wider housing market, particularly continued poor mortgage availability,” he said in a note.