House builder Bellway's profits rise 26%

Bricks and Trowel
Image caption Bellway has upped its interim dividend for shareholders on the back of increased profits

UK house builder Bellway has posted a 26% rise in half-year profits, but admitted "consumer confidence remains fragile".

The firm reported pre-tax profits of £24m for the six months to the end of January, up from £19m last year.

"Bellway has exceeded its targets," chairman Howard Dawe said, after the group completed the sale of 2,332 homes, a rise of almost 4%.

The interim dividend for shareholders will increase by 12%.

"Visitors and reservations have returned to the pattern of a traditional spring market," said Mr Dawe.

Everton purchase

The company said there had been strong growth in its northern divisions and its average sale price had increased by just over 6% to £145,174.

Its average sale price in the south of the country had risen by more than double this, at 14%, however.

The company said that one of its most notable purchases in the last six months had been the former training ground of Everton Football Club.

British house builders have been gearing up for a tough year as public spending cuts and weaker consumer confidence test the market.

But Bellway expects 2011 to go well.

"Expectations for this financial year are that profits will grow by a factor of maybe a third," said finance director Alistair Leitch.

On Tuesday, the Bank of England said 46,967 mortgages were approved for house purchases during February, up 815 on January.

Earlier this month, rival house builder Berkeley said it had seen a 25% jump in sales reservations compared with figures from 2010.

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