Henry Boot expects construction activity to cease following outbreak

Construction and property firm Henry Boot said the latest indications are that construction activity will be required to cease as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the business is still seeking clarification on this.

Henry Boot installing ground source heat pumps for Yorkshire Housing.
Henry Boot installing ground source heat pumps for Yorkshire Housing.

The Sheffield-based firm added that in the meantime it is following strict safety precautions and is preparing to close sites if required.

“The vast majority of the development work ongoing is either pre-sold or pre-let and we are limiting future activity,” Henry Boot added.

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The business has also delayed the publication of its preliminary financial statements, which were due out on March 31, in line with the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) request to all listed companies to delay publication for at least two weeks.

In its trading statement, released on January 20, the firm stated that its performance for the year to December 31, 2019 was marginally lower than the board's original expectations, driven by lower rental income after the successful sales of our retail focused investments.

These sales meant that the group ended 2019 with higher than anticipated net cash of £27m.

Trading during the first two months of 2020 has been marginally ahead of the board's expectation.

This, coupled with the firm’s conservative cash management in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, has resulted in net cash increasing to £47m.

Henry Boot said: “We have taken measures to actively manage cash and curtail both capital and revenue expenditure.

“As we look forward now into an uncertain and challenging time, we are taking a prudent and vigilant approach to all areas of our business, minimising risk, monitoring developments carefully and responding decisively as appropriate.”

In February, the business formed a committee to develop a coronavirus action plan, providing guidance to all its staff on safety and welfare.

Henry Boot’s office network is now closed apart from limited cover in the event of emergencies. However, its staff continue to work remotely.

Tim Roberts, CEO of Henry Boot, said: "Over recent weeks we have been preparing the business to close down operations and to function remotely.

“Our strong balance sheet, plus the cash reserves we have built up, position us for the uncertain times ahead."