Land regeneration firm to play a key role in levelling up the North

Land regeneration firm Harworth Group has reported a strong 2020 performance and said it is well-positioned to play a key role supporting the Government agenda on housing, levelling up and the green economy.

Waverley is one of Harworth’s flagship developments

The Rotherham-based firm said its performance was underpinned by a strategic focus on the ‘beds and sheds’ sectors in the North and the Midlands.

Harworth’s chief executive, Lynda Shillaw, said: “Our results for 2020 give us great confidence in the strength and resilience of our underlying business and our ability to grow and prosper, despite the disruption caused by Covid-19.

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She said that Harworth is very well positioned to support the delivery of the Government's agendas.

"The reality is we are already delivering for the regions and the regional economy," she said.

"We work really hard with local authorities and local communities and universities to bring in world class companies. We basically bring in really good quality jobs."

Ms Shillaw said demand for Harworth's serviced land is strong and it is exploring potential acquisitions.

"Together with our strong balance sheet and opportunities in our core residential and logistics sectors, we are very well-placed to trade successfully through the pandemic and play a key role in delivering the infrastructure the country needs for regional economic recovery and long-term growth," she added.

The group said operating profit rose 14 per cent to £28m in the year to December 31.

The firm is recommending a final dividend per share of 1.466p, reflecting underlying growth of 10 per cent and supplemented to reflect the cancellation of the 2019 final dividend at the start of the pandemic, demonstrating the board’s confidence in the business.

Harworth said it has a strong development pipeline after it secured planning consents for a further 1.1m sq ft of industrial space and 300 residential plots.

At the end of December, it had planning applications for more than 1.3m sq ft of employment space and over 2,500 residential plots had been submitted and are awaiting determination. Since then, it has submitted outline planning applications for a further 2.9m sq ft of employment space.

The group said demand for good quality, industrial space remains strong with a low year-end portfolio vacancy rate of 4.5 per cent.

It added that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever the need and demand for well-designed, attractive and sustainable places for people to live and work in.

"When Harworth acquires a site, we are very engaged right from the beginning with the local authorities and local communities so we are really listening to what is needed in that area," said Ms Shillaw.

"We work with the housebuilders. Our focus is often on turning something that was not very nice, like a former slag heap or something that was post-industrial, into a country park and landscaping it with lakes and cycle ways. Enhancing the biodiversity is a key part of what we do.

"We also make sure we've got good community spaces such as mini allotments, mini orchards and great amenities for kids to play in, which is really important."

Analyst Chris Spearing at Liberum said: "Despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic, Harworth has delivered strong results for 2020, with value gains in the second half more than reversing the decline in the first half.

"Growth was principally driven by progress on major development sites and rising industrial values. We believe the focus on the attractive ‘beds and sheds’ property sectors makes the business well placed to deliver attractive returns over the medium term."