Abbey ‘cau­tious’ on more in­vest­ment

Irish Examiner - - Business - Ge­off Per­ci­val

Ir­ish house­build­ing group Abbey has said it will be “cau­tious” about mak­ing new land­bank in­vest­ments, par­tic­u­larly in its UK op­er­a­tions, in the months ahead, due to Brexit un­cer­tainty.

The Meath-based com­pany re­ported a 2.2% yearon-year in­crease in first half pre-tax prof­its, while rev­enues jumped by over 22% to €110.6m. Pre-tax profit for the six months to the end of Oc­to­ber, amounted to €23.93m.

“Whilst our UK for­ward sales po­si­tion gives confi- dence of a rea­son­able re­sult for the year, the un­cer­tain ex­ter­nal con­di­tions are cause for con­cern. The group will con­tinue to progress all its ac­tiv­i­ties but in­tends to be cau­tious about new in­vest­ments,” said chair­man Charles Gal­lagher.

Mr Gal­lagher said, how­ever, that trad­ing in the UK “held up well” in the six months, with hous­ing projects aimed at first-time buy­ers sell­ing par­tic­u­larly well. Abbey’s core house­build­ing divi­sion - it also has a UK plant hire busi­ness which gen­er­ated prof­its of €1.88m and rev­enues of nearly €11m in the first half com­pleted 277 sales; 239 of which were in the UK, with 19 in Ire­land and 19 in the Czech Repub­lic.

At its AGM in Oc­to­ber, Abbey said it was ramp­ing up its Ir­ish-based de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­ity, with in­creas­ing the num­ber of houses it builds here its top pri­or­ity. Mr Gal­lagher said that re­mains the case.

Abbey cur­rently has four Ir­ish-based hous­ing projects await­ing plan­ning per­mis­sion, and will shortly have five projects, here, in pro­duc­tion. The com­pany de­clared an in­terim div­i­dend of 9c per share, as well as a spe­cial div­i­dend of €1 per share. The lat­ter will be paid at the end of Jan­uary, with the for­mer payable at the end of April. Less than 10% of Abbey shares are in free float. The Gal­lagher fam­ily con­trols nearly 82% of the com­pany, with global in­vestor Fi­delity con­trol­ling just shy of 10%.

Else­where, UK house­builder Berke­ley Group re­ported a 25.7% fall in firsthalf profit and warned of an un­cer­tain short-term outlook as Bri­tish peo­ple put off buy­ing houses ahead of Brexit.

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