As a long-term owner of shares in Britain’s housebuilders — Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey both sit proudly in my investment portfolio — news flow on Wednesday has gone a long way to boosting my confidence in their profits prospects.
When I bought shares in those FTSE 100 behemoths, I was drawn by their market-leading dividends, a quality that also led me to consider buying Bovis Homes (recently renamed Vistry Group (LSE: VTY)). I might have overlooked it back then but I was convinced that it remained a top stock to buy for the years ahead. And trading results released today show just why I was so upbeat.
Vistry Group — which changed its name after acquiring Linden Homes earlier this month — said today that the number of completions it booked in 2019 rose 3% to 3,867 units, underlining the resilience of the domestic housing market despite great economic and political uncertainty.
The homebuilders have not proved totally immune to those broader pressures, though. The FTSE 250 firm said that the underlying selling prices of its properties ducked between 1% and 2% in the second half of the year as “market uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the general election led to some increased pressure on pricing”.
However, it added that a lack of cost inflation, allied with the company’s own efforts to bring down costs, helped it to absorb the impact of these lower asking prices. And as a consequence, it said that operating margins last year improved from those of 2018.
For the year as a whole, Vistry saw the average selling price for its homes rise to £279,000 from £273,200 a year earlier. The asking prices of its private homes (sales of which rose by 11% year-on-year to 2,687) rose to £341,000 from £337,400 previously.
So strong was the homebuilder’s performance last year that it expects to report another year of record profits for 2019, adding that the final bottom-line result is likely to sweep past previous expectations.
More to come!
So much for the doom-mongers who suggested that homes sales would dry up in the run-up to Brexit. In fact, the market continues to go from strength to strength, with Vistry also saying that “we have a strong forward sales position and trading to date has been very positive, with consumer confidence returning and industry fundamentals remaining strong.”
But don’t just take the builder’s word for it, with latest Office for National Statistics data also released on Wednesday illustrating the improving state of the market. According to the ONS, house price inflation leapt to 2.2% in November from 1.3% in the previous month, the highest reading for around a year.
No wonder City analysts expect Vistry to post fresh record earnings in 2020, a 23% bottom-line rise being predicted. And this leave the business trading on a rock-bottom forward P/E ratio of 9.8 times. Combined with a mighty 6.1% dividend yield, I reckon the construction colossus is too good to pass up at current prices.
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Royston Wild 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.