Surely, surely, we are reaching the Brexit endgame. It may require an extension to the 31 October deadline, and a December election, but it has to happen at some point. Doesn’t it?
Most importantly, markets now rate the likelihood of a no-deal departure at just 5%. Some top FTSE 100 stocks have started rising in anticipation of some kind of resolution. Particularly in the housebuilding sector, which is plugged into the domestic economy, and therefore more exposed to Brexit mood swings. Here are two that could have further to go.
Persimmon, the UK’s second largest housebuilder, is hardly the most loved company on the index, after paying out that controversial £75m bonus to former CEO Jeff Fairburn, who was driven out by the scandal. People were particularly upset given its profits have been underpinned by the government-funded Help to Buy scheme, which was designed to support first-time buyers, not super-rich FTSE 100 bosses.
Persimmon has also been slammed for poor quality builds and, in August’s interims, set aside £140m to put things right. Half-year profits dropped from £516m to £509m, but Persimmon still generated more than £67,000 profit from every house completed.
Despite these issues, its share price is up almost 15% in the last three months, amid signs that Brexit clouds will clear, bringing happy days for housebuilders.
I always thought the sector was unduly punished in the wake of the EU referendum The UK has a massive shortage of homes, and nothing I can see is set to change that, especially with the population on course to hit 70m by 2031. Demand simply isn’t going to dry up.
Despite the recent share price recovery, Persimmon still trades at a bargain 8.9 times forward earnings, and offers a massive yield of 10%. Cover is still at 1.1 but with cash reserves of £832.8m, the payout looks safe. Return on capital employed (ROCE) is a healthy 36.3% too. It looks a Brexit buy to me.
Berkeley Group Holdings
By rights, fellow FTSE 100 housebuilder Berkeley Group (LSE: BKG) should be struggling, given its primary focus is London and the South East, where prices have been under pressure. Balancing that, it also operates in Birmingham, which has been more buoyant.
Yet its share price is also up 15% in the last three months, and 35% over the last year. Investors have been buoyed by management optimism, with the board targeting total pre-tax profits of £3.3bn over the six years to 2025.
Last month, it announced the extension of its £280m annual shareholder returns programme to 2025, worth £2.22 per share, with a targeted pre-tax return on equity of at least 15%. The current forecast yield is 4.1%, nicely covered 1.8 times. Berkeley’s ROCE isn’t quite as thumping as Persimmon’s, but at 23.5% is nothing to beef about. The group also has low reliance on Help to Buy.
The Berkeley share price is more expensive than Persimmon’s, trading at 13.5 times forecast earnings, but it has been much less controversial. With stable pricing and a forward sales position above £1.8bn, it looks a buy if you need more exposure to this sector.
Harvey Jones has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.