June 19 (Bloomberg) -- Berkeley Group Holdings Plc, the U.K. homebuilder focused on London and southeast England, said annual profit rose 33 percent after it sold more homes at higher prices. The shares rose as much as 5.1 percent.
Net income increased to 209.7 million pounds ($328 million) in the 12 months through April from 158.1 million pounds a year earlier, the Cobham, England-based company said in a statement today. Analysts expected net income of 209 million pounds, the average of three estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
“The London market has been performing stronger than the rest of the market,” Rob Perrins, group managing director of Berkeley, said in an interview. “It hasn’t had the constraints on mortgages and deposits that outside London has had.”
Berkeley’s board declared a further interim dividend of 59 pence per share payable in September, and the company said its plan to return 1.7 billion pounds to shareholders over a 10-year period remains on track. Berkeley rose as much as 5.1 percent, the most since Dec. 7, and closed up 1.6 percent in London trading at 2193 pence.
Prime Minister David Cameron is using homebuilding to help stimulate the economy, with the government in March announcing the Help to Buy equity-loan program to aid home buyers. The Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme has also eased home lending by lowering bank-funding costs.
“The Help to Buy initiative will help bring back the feel good factor outside of London,” Perrins said by telephone.
Berkeley has been acquiring land in southeast England, where the housing market escaped the worst effects of the global recession in 2008 and mortgage lending has been less constrained. U.K. home sellers raised asking prices 1.2 percent in June to an average 252,798 pounds, property-website operator Rightmove Plc said in a report this week. The biggest increases in the year so far were in the southeast, where asking prices have risen 14.8 percent.
Berkeley in March said it had acquired three sites in southeast England since November to gain from a shortage of supply. The purchase of sites in the London neighborhoods of Finchley and Mill Hill and in the town of Maidenhead will help achieve Berkeley’s target of increasing its land by 10 percent in fiscal 2013, the company said in a March 18 statement.
Berkeley sold 3,712 new homes during the year, up from 3,565 a year earlier, according to the statement. The average selling price increased 26 percent to 354,000 pounds. Revenue increased 32 percent to 1.37 billion pounds.
To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Gower in London at firstname.lastname@example.org