June 17, 2020 / 6:24 AM / 2 months ago

UK's Berkeley on track for next shareholder payout as profit falls

(Reuters) - British housebuilder Berkeley Group Holdings (BKGH.L) has stuck by its commitment to return 280 million pounds to shareholders annually and said it would make its next payment in September even as it reported a 35% fall in annual profit.

Berkeley surprised markets earlier this year by abandoning plans to almost double payouts to around 1 billion pounds over the next two years in a return of what it said was surplus capital following the bumper sales of some London properties.

With house sales down by more than a quarter compared to a year ago, it reiterated on Wednesday it would instead hold onto 455 million pounds in capital for up to two years while continuing to make dividend payouts and buy back shares.

Shares of the company rose 1.7% to 4295 pence in early trading.

The UK housing market has suffered from falling house prices over the past few years due to Brexit-related uncertainties and coronavirus-led lockdowns have added to its woes. However, recent data points to early signs of a recovery as restrictions ease.

The company, which operates primarily in London, Birmingham and the South of England, said pretax profit fell to 503.7 million pounds in the full year ended April 30, compared to 775.2 million pounds a year earlier.

Berkeley delivered 2,723 homes during the period, down from 3,698 delivered last year and said the average selling price decreased 9.5% to 677,000 pounds.

Reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Patrick Graham

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