February 24, 2014 / 11:12 AM / 4 years ago

REFILE-UPDATE 1-Bovis aims to almost double building capacity within three years

By Brenda Goh

LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - British housebuilder Bovis Homes aims to have the capacity to almost double the number of homes it sells per year within the next three years, seeking to use a strong housing market to increase its business to record levels.

Bovis and its rivals such as Persimmon and Barratt Developments have been boosted over the past year by a government move to help aspiring homeowners, which has stoked demand for newly-built homes.

Bovis, one of the sector’s smaller housebuilders with a market value of 1.2 billion pounds, aims to be in a position to sell 4,000-5,000 homes per year in the next two to three years, its chief executive said. It completed the sale of 2,813 homes in 2013.

“We’re now talking about structuring the business to have a capacity between 4,000-5,000 units per annum in the medium term. You can sense from that we don’t expect the growth to stop for a number of years,” David Ritchie told Reuters on Monday, referring to the next two to three years.

“We’re trading on better locations, we’re selling better as an organisation, and ... we’d be naive to say that the market is not better,” he said.

The company expects to sell 3,400-3,600 homes in 2014, based on reservation numbers in the first few weeks of the year and its expansion of sales outlets. It secured 468 private reservations in the first seven weeks of 2014, 64 percent more than last year.

“Since its flotation in 1997, the business peaked at 3,100 units (in 2006), so we’re already talking about 2014 being bigger than we’ve ever been before,” Ritchie said.

Bovis has been snapping up land and boosting sales outlets across the country to 93. At the end of 2013, its land bank comprised 14,638 plots with planning permission with potential gross profit of 727 million pounds ($1.2 billion) on finished homes.

It posted a 48 percent rise in pretax profit for the year to the end of December of 78.8 million pounds, on revenues of 556 million pounds. Its operating profit margin was 14.9 percent, up from 13.3 percent in 2012.

It also raised its dividend per share by 50 percent to 13.5 pence.

Analysts had forecast full year pretax profits of 74 to 79.6 million pounds on revenues of 516 to 566 million pounds, Thomson Reuters data showed.

Describing the results as “excellent”, Panmure Gordon analyst Mark Hughes said that he was raising his target price for the firm to 923 pence from 900.

Shares in Bovis, which are up 36 percent over the past one year, were trading 0.5 percent lower at 895.5 pence at 1009 GMT against the Thomson Reuters UK Homebuilding Index which was 1.2 percent weaker.

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