Berkeley enjoying capital gains

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Housebuilder Berkeley delivered a 30 per cent rise in half-year profits yesterday as it continues to benefit from the resilience of the London property market.

With overseas investors viewing the capital as a safe haven from the financial meltdown in parts of Europe, Berkeley said demand for prime residential property remained strong.

Its level of forward sales increased by 15 per cent to £937.2m and has kept it on track to double earnings between April 2010 and 2013.

The group, which is focused on London and the Home Counties, said new site launches, an improvement in margins and better cost controls helped operating profits improve to £76.4m in the six months to October 31.

Around 95 per cent of its developments are on brownfield land, with 10,000 plots currently in its longer term landbank.

It sold 1,506 homes in the half year at an average selling price of £254,000, compared with 1,249 homes sold at £262,000 a year earlier.

The reduction in price reflects the mix of homes delivered in the period, with this trend expected to reverse in the current half year.

Bottom-line profits rose 64 per cent to £101.1m after Berkeley benefited from the sale of its 51 per cent stake in a post-graduate accommodation scheme for Imperial College at Clapham Junction in London in September.

Numis Securities analyst Chris Millington said the results were broadly in line with market expectations.

He continued: “Berkeley continues to be active in the land market and is investing in work in progress – a good indication that trading conditions remain good.”