Friday 4 September 2020 7:51 am

Berkeley Group holds guidance on robust trading despite Covid-19 hit

Property developer Berkeley Group today maintained its guidance for the full year after reporting better-than-expected trading during the coronavirus outbreak.

The FTSE 100 housebuilder held its forecast for pre-tax profit of £500m and confirmed its plan to return £280m to shareholders per year.

Berkeley said it now expected a more even split in profit between the first and second halves of the year thanks to better-than-expected levels of production and its decision not to furlough staff.

The property group said robust sales pricing was driven by strong demand in under-supplied markets, good mortgage availability and government support including a freeze on stamp duty for the first £500,000 of sales value and an extension to the Help to Buy scheme.

Forward sales are expected to remain around the year-end position of above £1.8bn.

Berkeley said disruption caused by social distancing measures had been minimal, but said it was mindful of the economic uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

The company added that it was mindful of the risks surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU at the end of the year.

The trading update, which is the first since the death of Berkeley’s founder and previous chairman Tony Pidgley, came ahead of the company’s annual general meeting today.

Berkeley said it will pay a dividend of 107p per share, while a further shareholder return of £140.1m will be provided by 31 March 2021 through a combination of dividends and share buybacks.