(Alliance News) - Barratt Developments PLC on Friday said work will resume at its construction sites on May 11, although its sales centres and show homes will remain closed.
In April, peers Persimmon PLC, Taylor Wimpey PLC and Vistry Group PLC made similar announcements of a phased re-opening of their construction sites.
The housebuilder shut all of its offices, sales centres, and construction sites in response to the Covid-19 pandemic with all locations closed and secured by March 27.
Barratt has, since then, "developed a detailed set of working practices and protocols" to allow its construction sites to operate in line with government guidance. This will include the presence of a "social distancing marshal" who will "ensure policy compliance".
Work at Barratt's construction sites will recommence starting May 11 and the return will be phased, with around 50% or 180 of its sites reopened in the first phase.
With the reopening, a significant proportion of Barratt's workforce will return to work in May. Currently, approximately 85% of employees are furloughed at their normal pay - a situation which was initially intended to persist to May end.
Chief Executive David Thomas said: "Our first priority is the health and safety of our employees, sub-contractors and customers. We have created a detailed set of working practices and protocols for employees and sub-contractors to ensure that we can reopen our construction sites safely, in a phased and measured way, which minimises risk. In line with our commitment to put our customers first, we will be prioritising the completion of those homes that our customers have already exchanged or reserved".
Given that all of Barratt's sales centres are shut, reservations have shut and customer interest is down year-on-year.
"We expect reservations to continue at low levels until our sales centres and show homes reopen. Initially our construction activities will prioritise sold plots at advanced stages of construction, and we therefore expect a limited number of additional completions this financial year," Barratt said.
As at April 26, Barratt had completed 11,776 homes, slightly more than the 11,723 homes completed at the same time in 2019 including joint ventures. Forward sales amounted to 12,271 homes at a value of GBP2.85 billion.
Cost base and cash flow measures implemented in response to the pandemic include the suspension of all land buying, as well as all recruitment activity. Non-essential capital expenditure has been postponed and cash flows are now being actively managed.
Barratt has also cancelled its interim dividend, which was set to be paid on May 11. Its executive directors and management team have all taken a 20% base salary and fee cut.
On Monday this week, Barratt had around GBP430 million of cash and committed facilities and placement notes totalling GBP900 million. It is also eligible for funding under the UK government's Covid Corporate Financing Facility, if necessary.
Barratt said: "Our experienced board remains focused on taking the actions necessary to maintain the operational and financial strength of the business while planning the safe reopening of construction sites, sales centres and show homes so that we can continue to lead the industry in the delivery of the high quality homes the country needs".
Shares in Barratt were down 1.7% at 510.00 pence in London on Friday morning.
By Anna Farley; firstname.lastname@example.org
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