Berkeley Group is looking beyond its traditional stomping ground, as political and economic uncertainty continues to weigh on the capital’s housing market.
The housebuilder, which predominately builds luxury property in London and the south east, launched 11 new developments last year. Eight of those were outside of London, it said in its results for the year ended April 30.
Berkeley’s profits fell 20.7 per cent to £775.2m compared to the same period a year before. The group had warned that last year’s profits were likely to represent a peak, as heavy investment into relatively cheap sites following the financial crisis, and the subsequent upturn in the London property market, had seen profits at the company rise sharply.
The group’s pre-tax return on equity had been running at very high levels: 41.9 per cent in 2018 and 27.9 per cent this year.
With a slower market, particularly for high-end homes in London, Berkeley’s strategy over the longer term is to achieve a “sustainable pre-tax return on equity of 15 per cent”.
Sales of new-build homes in London to individuals are at the lowest level since 2012, according to data from Molior, which monitors developments in the city.
Berkeley’s net cash position increased to £975m, from £687.3m in April last year. In 2016, the group’s net cash position was £107.4m. The subsequent increase “represents under-investment commensurate with the uncertain operating environment”, the company said.
The group built 3,698 new homes at an average selling price of £748,000 in the period, and returned £251.9m to shareholders.