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Countryside delivers decent start to new financial year

By Josh White

Date: Thursday 23 Jan 2020

Countryside delivers decent start to new financial year

(Sharecast News) - Mixed-tenure developer Countryside Properties updated the market on its trading in the first quarter on Thursday, describing it as "strong", with its net reservation rate up 29% year-on-year at 0.81.
The FTSE 250 company said that was driven by a "strong" market, along with the quality of its open outlets, which resulted in a 46% increase in the private forward order book on the prior year to £314m.

It said demand for affordable and private rented sector homes also remained "robust" in the 13 weeks ended 31 December, and overall its total forward order book was up 65% to £1.57bn - a record level for the quarter.

Countryside said it was active on a total of 142 sites, up from 129 year-on-year, of which 60 were open selling outlets rising from 54 in the first quarter of last year.

The board said the company's partnerships division delivered total completions of 855 homes, up from 850 year-on-year, which it said was in line with the prior year despite some delayed site starts.

It said it had a "very strong" quarter for new business, securing 4,165 plots, including a scheme to build 581 homes in Waltham Forest, London, 700 homes in Salford, Greater Manchester and a total of 1,673 homes for its newly established regions.

Countryside's modular panel factory was now operating two shifts, with the firm saying it had identified a site for its second factory, which it expected to become operational during 2021.

The housebuilding division delivered completions in line with the prior year at 242 homes, down slightly from 244.

During the period, the firm secured new options for 350 homes in Bedfordshire and 400 homes in Knebworth, Hertfordshire, as well as securing outline planning for 1,138 homes in Maldon, Essex and 750 homes in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire.

Overall, Countryside's housebuilding land bank stood at 24,957 plots, up from 20,118 a year earlier.

Looking ahead, the company said it was still seeing "strong" customer demand across both divisions for all tenures of homes.

It said it was entering the second quarter with a record forward order book, positioning the firm well for the rest of the current year.

Build programmes remained on track for the full year, and the board said it was expecting further growth in the number of open outlets in the second quarter.

It added that it remained focussed on exceptional customer satisfaction, and continued to track at HBF five-star builder status.

With some of the political uncertainty now having eased, and sales levels in line with expectations for the current time of year, Countryside said it remained on track to deliver its full year plans.

"The business is performing well and we enter the second quarter of the 2020 financial year with strong customer demand across all tenures and a record forward order book," said group chief executive officer Iain McPherson.

"We have had another excellent quarter for new business wins across all regions, further strengthening the foundations for future growth."

McPherson said the company's modular panel factory was performing "well", with the board pleased to be progressing plans for a second modular panel factory.

"We continue to remain focused on quality, safety and high levels of customer satisfaction and look forward to the rest of the year with confidence."

At 0903 GMT, shares in Countryside Properties were down 0.2% at 506p.

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