PA ANALYSIS: Debunking the myth of struggling housebuilders

Added 12th July 2017

Woodford loves them, and yesterday Barratt Developments offered a taste of why UK housebuilders have been a favoured sector for the star manager with its annual results showing profits up 12%.  

PA ANALYSIS: Debunking the myth of struggling housebuilders

House completions via Barratt are up, as are the number of units built for the year ending 30 June, with profits standing at £756m according to a trading update.

It is a shot in the foot for those who dismissed the housebuilding sector during the drama of the Brexit referendum last year, with the story since proving the industry is far more resilient than many thought and supported by strong underlying factors. 

As Hargreaves Lansdown's senior analyst Laith Khalaf says: "Reports of the demise of the housebuilding sector in the wake of Brexit were greatly exaggerated. Put simply, Barratt Developments is selling more houses at higher prices, and that’s good for profits and shareholders." 

With dividend payments up between 5% and 6% and housebuilding stocks providing eye-watering returns of between 200-400% over the last five years, it is a sector investors would be foolish to ignore.  

Neil Woodford, CEO of Woodford Investment Management, revealed his preference for the sector in May, buying into the likes of Barrett and Taylor Wimpey for his new Income Focus Fund after claiming people had been too downbeat on the UK's economic prospects.  

There are indeed a number of factors holding up the sector, with three key aspects ensuring housebuilders' swing up won't come to an abrupt end any time soon, according to Brian Cullen, investment manager at SW Mitchell Capital. 

He notes growing demand which still outstrips the limited supply of housing stock, rising house prices against flat prices for land and wide consolidation within firms in the industry as essential ingredients propping up the sector's strong performance. 

The unexpected "icing on the cake" was the wider availability of mortgages thanks to the government's Help to Buy policy.  

However, Cullen has sold out of housebuilders steadily since the beginning on the year, eliminating a 20% overweight position in the sector.  

"The thinking behind it is not any bearish view we have, it's quite the opposite; it's just that when we were buying it the upside relative to the risk made housebuilders very attractive. Now we do not see there being as much upside as some other areas."

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Louise Hill

Senior Reporter

Louise joined Portfolio Adviser in December 2016 as one of the editorial team’s news reporters based in London. Originally from Liverpool, she is an NCTJ-qualified journalist and began her career in 2014 working on local newspapers.

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