HOUSEBUILDER Berkeley posted higher profits today as it made its first payment in a decade-long plan to return £1.7bn to shareholders.
The group’s exposure to the robust London property market and the acquisition of land at the low point of the economic cycle meant pre-tax profits rose 40.7 per cent to £142.2m in the six months to October 31.
The performance will trigger an interim dividend worth a total of £20m for shareholders - its first distribution since 2008 and counting towards the £568m Berkeley expects to return by September 2015.
Chairman Tony Pidgley said it was the first tangible return for shareholders who have invested £500m of equity in the urban regeneration specialist since 2008.
He added: “This has enabled the creation of over 6,000 new jobs in construction, alongside the delivery of affordable and key worker homes, new schools and infrastructure, all important contributions to wider society.”
Further share buy-backs and dividends are expected to bring the total shareholder return to £1.7bn by September 2021.
The company said it invested £202m in acquiring 1,965 residential plots in the half-year period, taking its landbank to 26,370 plots.
Revenues jumped 69 per cent to £686m after the sale of 1,927 new homes in the period at an average selling price of £335,000, compared with £254,000 a year earlier.
Berkeley said the sharp rise reflected an increasing proportion of homes in London, including 149 apartments at Westminster’s Grosvenor Waterside project.
It added that demand for residential property remained strong despite the economic backdrop, with the shortage of good quality homes supporting the case for investment in the London house market.
The company said: “London’s reputation has only been enhanced during the period, above all from the successful staging of the Olympic and Paralympic games, and it has remained a stable and attractive market for investment.”
Shares opened more than six per cent higher following the dividend payment.