UPDATE 1-Barratt sees strong second-half as home sales jump

Tue Jan 14, 2014 4:36am EST

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LONDON Jan 14 (Reuters) - Housebuilder Barratt Developments said it was confident of delivering a strong second-half, supported by the broader British housing market recovery which helped it to a 71 percent rise in total forward sales over its first-half period.

Following a painful few years triggered by the housing market collapse, Britain's housebuilders have bounced back on government efforts to help Britons purchase homes, which has stoked sentiment and driven transactions over the past year.

Rival Persimmon last week triggered market upgrades after it posted a 21 percent rise in 2013 revenue, at the top end of analyst forecasts.

"We are very well placed for 2014 and beyond. We believe that on the back of that, and the stronger market, we really have the confidence that we will continue to drive up returns and deliver a stronger second half," Chief Executive Mark Clare told Reuters on Tuesday.

Barratt said total forward sales, excluding joint ventures, over the six months to end-December jumped to 1.27 billion pounds ($2.08 billion), from 742.1 million pounds, equating to 7,007 plots. Forward sales are home sales that have been reserved with deposits.

It increased total home completions over the period by 19 percent to match the surge in demand, seen in net private reservations per active site rising 36.7 percent over the period. Clare said that the company was using 15 percent more labour to deliver that higher number of homes.

"The company is in an exceptionally strong position as this stage of the year," said Panmure Gordon analyst Mark Hughes who has a 'buy' rating on the stock. "In our opinion full year forecasts are underpinned."

Analysts expect Barratt to post pretax profits of between 323-359 million pounds on revenues of 2.82-2.98 billion pounds, a Thomson Reuters survey showed.

Separately, Countrywide Holdings, Britain's largest estate agent by revenue, said it expected to deliver 2013 profit at the top end of its expectations due to strong income growth of 11 percent over the year to end-December.

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