‘Stable’ Barratt ready to buy land again

Barratt Developments said it started or resumed work on 39 sites in the 19 weeks to 8 November and is on the hunt for sites again.

The housebuilder and commercial developer's divisions include Barratt Homes, Wilson Bowden – developer of the massive Kingsway business park in Rochdale – and David Wilson Homes.

An interim management statement for the period from 1 July to 8 November reflected a 'stabilising housing market'.

Mark Clare, chief executive of Barratt Developments, said: "With the successful refinancing of the business now completed, we have substantially reduced debt levels and are in a strong position to buy land as opportunities emerge and to open new sites.

"Our net private reservation rates per site are running 34% ahead of last year. While trading conditions in the housing market have improved, activity levels will remain constrained until the availability of mortgage finance increases particularly at higher loan to value levels."

Net private reservations averaged 204 per week (2008: 197), equating to 0.55 homes per active site per week (2008: 0.41). Cancellations fell from 23.7% at the same time last year to 13.4%.

Barratt said the forward order book at 8 November 2009 stood at £846.6m (2008: £817.7m) of which £506.0m was contracted (2008: £481.5m).

The group completed a £720.5m share placing this year and renegotiated its banking facilities. Net debt as at 31 December 2009 will be around £700m (2008: £1,422.8m).

The statement added: "The group is operating from 362 active sites (2008: 449) and 415 total sites (2008: 515). During the first 19 weeks we have opened 39 active sites and expect site numbers to be broadly stable during the year. The business continues to focus on managing stock levels to operate at the optimal level in the current environment.

"Whilst the land market remains subdued, we have continued to identify and approve the purchase of a number of sites, largely on deferred terms."

No regional breakdown for the figures was available.

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