A YORK-based housebuilder which kept all staff on full pay during the spring lockdown went on to have a 'robust' year in 2020.

Persimmon plc saw revenue fall by just nine per cent in 2020, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. These included the ongoing increase in the time taken to progress and complete sales contracts.

The performance in the second half of the year, delivering 8,675 new home legal completions, mitigated some of the impact of the delays caused by the initial lockdown, said the company which is headquartered in York.

The house builder announced an update today ahead of its final results for 2020, which will be released on March 3, 2021.

Total Group revenues of £3.33bn - down on the £3.65bn of 2019 - were generated in the year, with new housing revenues of £3.13bn, compared with £3.42bn in 2019.

New home legal completions of 13,575, (2019: 15,855), include 11,363 new homes sold to private owner occupiers (2019: 12,463).

The Group’s average selling price increased by about seven per cent to £230,500, resulting from the six per cent higher proportion of new homes delivered to owner occupiers in the total sales for the year.

The average selling price of new homes sold to owner occupiers improved by 3.7 per cent to £250,900 (2019: £241,985), reflecting year on year changes in the mix of active sales outlets and homes sold.

Dean Finch, Group chief executive, said: “Against the backdrop of the unprecedented challenges of 2020, Persimmon produced a robust performance for the year, as we continued to deliver the new homes the country needs.

"The Group’s strong second half completions were supported by its advanced build coming into the year, an agile and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic and resilient customer demand.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our customers, our workforce and our communities has been paramount throughout and all of the Group’s businesses continue to operate in line with our Covid-secure policies and procedures.

“We continue to improve our customer service and build quality and I am pleased at the level of commitment I have seen from within the business to achieving these aims, as recognised in our current customer satisfaction scores which have been trending ahead of the 5 star HBF rating since January 2020.

"Looking ahead, we are focused on delivering further improvement and consistency in the way we serve our customers and build our homes, whilst reducing our impact on the environment.

“Recent events have served to further demonstrate the continuing near term uncertainties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we believe that the longer term fundamentals of the UK housing market remain resilient and I am confident Persimmon will continue to deliver superior long term value for all of its stakeholders.”

Highlights of the year:

13,575 new home completions, up from 15,855 in 2019.

The average selling price of the company's homes rose to £230,500 last year, compared to £215,709 in 2019.

The total Group revenues reached £3.33bn, compared with £3.65bn the previous year.

Revenues from new homes was £3.13bn, compared with £3.42bn in 2019. And its current forward sales position is £1.689bn, up from the £1.356bn position at the end of 2019.

The dividend paid in the year was110p per share, down from 235p per share in 2019.

Demand for new homes has remained resilient throughout the second half with the Group’s average weekly sales rate per site being 39 per cent higher than the second half of 2019, in part supported by the temporary change to the Government’s stamp duty regime.

The Group spent about £330m in the year on land investment and brought about 6,700 plots of new land into the business across 33 locations.

The Group had cash balances of £1,234m, after returning £351m to shareholders.

Throughout the first national lockdown period starting in March 2020, the Group kept all staff on full pay, without recourse to Government assistance, and provided necessary support to suppliers and subcontractors to ensure operational continuity and enable a safe and structured re-start to site operations in late April 2020.

The Group has not accessed any of the UK Government’s Covid-19 financial support schemes and said it had no plans to do so.

The report states that during the current phase of tighter restrictions, it has further adjusted its existing high level of Covid secure safe operating procedures.

"While the Group has achieved pre-Covid build rates since the end of June 2020, we recognise the elevated risk to the Group’s planned build programmes presented by the higher transmission rates of the new variant of the Covid-19 virus. Our regional businesses are currently managing resource efficiently, to support productivity where unplanned absences occur, and we remain in close liaison with our work force and supply chain to address these increasing operational challenges."