Buoyed by exceptional prospects for the UK housing market and a bulging order book, builder Bellway has lifted its final dividend 50 per cent.
The FTSE 250 housebuilder enjoyed a superlative year to July 31st, with revenues up 10.6% to £1.11bn, and said customer demand since had grown even further, boosted by the government's Help to Buy mortgage assistance scheme.
Since the year end the group has also looked to speed growth by opening two new divisions, in Manchester and the Thames Valley, which together with an order book up 54% to £679.5m at year-end and growing customer demand "could enable the group to achieve volume growth of up to 15% in the current financial year", it said.
Chairman John Watson said: "More favourable mortgage conditions, a gradual improvement in consumer confidence, together with a continuing programme of site openings, have allowed the group to deliver its fourth consecutive year of earnings growth.
He was enthused by profit before taxation increasing by almost 34% to £140.9m and pointed to a 36.3% earnings per share increase to 89.3p.
With strong earnings growth, cash on the balance sheet and gearing of less than 1%, Watson said the board proposed a final dividend increase by 50% to 21.0p per share, still well covered by earnings.
Bellway sold 5,652 homes during the year, up 8.2%, with the average selling price increased 3.4% to £193,025, and had a land bank up from 31,136 to 32,991 plots at year-end.
First final results from corporate energy consultancy Utilitywise were comfortably ahead of forecasts, providing evidence of progress towards its goal of profitably consolidating a fragmented market.
The AIM-listed company grew profits 81% before tax and acquisition-related costs to £7.0m on turnover up 73% to £24.8m.
Chief Executive Geoff Thompson hailed the company's successful first full year as a PLC: "As well as delivering very strong organic growth we have been able to invest and build for the future."
Utilitywise, which has relationships with energy suppliers and offers to cut businesses' energy costs by negotiating better rates and managing energy consumption, has used AIM to make three acquisitions in the first year with a mix of cash and paper, adding new products such as water monitoring and also expertise in the larger industrial space via the purchase of Energy Information Centre (EIC) to complement its leading position with small and medium-sized companies (SMEs).
"The market in which we operate remains highly fragmented and we have still attracted only a very small percentage of our addressable market. Through our strong relationships with energy supply companies and our ability to identify customers and deliver the optimum solutions, we remain confident in the continued success of the company."
With adjusted earnings per share up 46% to 7.9p and £4m cash on the balance sheet at year-end, the board proposed a final dividend of 1.8p per share, making a total payment for the year of 2.6p.