Tuesday 9 June 2020 9:41 am

Bellway cautious on trading after coronavirus lockdown forces house sales down

British housebuilder Bellway sold about 1,000 fewer homes between August and May, after it closed its centres because of the coronavirus lockdown.

The Newcastle-based company, which has restarted construction activity on around 230 sites, warned this morning that it expects sales activity to be “severely constrained”, driving shares down 2.7 per cent.

Bellway sold 6,721 homes between August and May, compared to 7,674 homes in the same period last year.

It reported an order book of £1.57bn at May 31, while net bank debt stood at £157m.

“Sales activity has remained restrained since initially closing our sales centres, with the net reservation rate rapidly declining to an average of 71 homes per week in the ten weeks from 23 March to 31 May,” Bellway said. 

The net reservation rate for the equivalent period last year was 231 per week.

The update sounded a more cautious tone than competitor Taylor Wimpey, which said last week that it was seeing a surge in interest in buying new homes.

Bellway, meanwhile, said land buying remained on hold “in general”. 

Financial guidance remained suspended, and it has temporarily abandoned plans to open new divisions.

The London-listed firm is one of the country’s biggest builders of flats, family homes and luxury penthouses.

Chief executive Jason Honeyman said the company was taking a “measured approach” to restarting business. 

“Our priority remains the health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues, customers and subcontractor workers,” he said. 

“With this in mind and following updated government guidance with regards to restarting the housing market, we have carefully and gradually recommenced onsite construction and sales activity in England and Wales, whilst introducing strict social distancing requirements.”