York-based house building giant Persimmon plc said in an AGM trading update on Wednesday its current forward sales position of £3 billion is 23% ahead of last year and 11% ahead of the same point in 2019.
The company re-iterated its intention “subject to continual assessment” to return 110p per share of surplus capital via two additional interim dividend payments in relation to the 2020 financial year, each for 55p per share, in August and December of 2021.
Persimmon’s average selling price for homes sold to private owner occupiers in the forward order book rose to £252,000 from £244,500 last year.
Persimmon CEO Dean Finch said: “Persimmon has made a strong start to the year with current forward sales 23% ahead of last year and 11% ahead of the same point in 2019.
“Our build rates continue at pre-Covid levels and we remain on track to deliver first half volumes approaching those of the first half of 2019.
“We are progressing our land holdings and taking advantage of good quality investment opportunities, bringing 6,000 plots across 29 locations into the business in the period and securing a strong pipeline for the future.
“Our current outlet network is expected to remain stable at approximately 300 outlets on average throughout the year.”
On dividends, Persimmon said: “As announced on 3 March 2021, given the successful trading result of the group in 2020 and its strong financial position, the payment of the regular annual distribution for the year ended 31 December 2020 of £1.25 per share, was accelerated and paid as an interim dividend on 26 March 2021, rather than in early July 2021 as previously planned.
“The board is pleased to re-iterate its intention, subject to continual assessment, to return 110p of surplus capital by way of two additional interim dividend payments in relation to the 2020 financial year, each amounting to 55p per share, the first in August 2021 and the second in December 2021.”
On current trading, Persimmon added: “Customer enquiry levels remained encouraging throughout the period and our average private sales rate for the current year to date is well ahead of 2020, as expected given the impact of the pandemic from week 12 last year, but is also c. 17% ahead of 2019 …
“Build rates across our developments remain at pre-pandemic levels, whilst maintaining all Covid secure protocols …
“We have continued to take advantage of good quality selective land investment opportunities during the period resulting in net land spend of £140m.
“6,000 plots have been brought into the business in 29 locations across the UK during the period.
“Persimmon’s balance sheet and liquidity remain robust.
“The group held £940m of cash at 23 April 2021 with deferred land commitments of approximately £90m to the end of the current year.
“In addition, the group has an undrawn £300m Revolving Credit Facility which has recently been extended, having a five year term out to 31 March 2026.”