House-builder Bellway revealed that its Chairman will be replaced by its Chief Executive next year, as it said that it will beat the current consensus estimate for pre-tax profit this year.
Non-executive Chairman Howard Dave, who has been with Bellway since 1961, is to retire on January 31st 2013 and will be succeeded by John Watson who will be stepping down as Chief Executive on the same date. Watson, who has been working for the firm for 34 years, will be replaced by Ted Ayres.
"Ted has spent his whole career in the construction and housebuilding industry, having occupied senior roles within the Group since joining Bellway in January 2002. These roles have included Managing Director of Thames Gateway division, Southern Regional Chairman, and latterly, the board position of Operations Director," the group said.
Meanwhile, the group's trading update revealed that the operating margin increased from 8.5% to 11% during the year to July 31st; at the half-year stage, margins were at 10.1%. As a results, the group said that pre-tax profits for the full-year will be "modestly ahead" of current consensus of £98m.
The group completed 5,226 home sales in the period, up 6.2% on the previous year's total of 4,922, helped primarily by completions of private homes which rose 13.4% over the period. A greater proportion of private completions, as well as other changes in product and geographical mix, pushed the average selling price up by over 7% from £175,613 to £187,000.
"The demand for new homes has remained resilient throughout the year and this, combined with investment in new site openings, has resulted in the group securing an average of 101 reservations per week (2011 - 93), an improvement of almost 9% on the previous financial year," the firm said.
Total reservations in the nine weeks since the group's last trading update (on June 8th) have followed the "usual seasonal slowdown" but still remain ahead of last year. The order book has grown in value by 3.4% to £441.2m, representing 2,533 homes.
With committed bank facilities of £300m and net bank debt of £41m (2011 - £3.4m net cash), Bellway said that it is in a "strong position to continue to deliver its strategy of growth in volume, average selling price and operating margin through a combination of changes in mix and the introduction of newly acquired higher margin land."
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