Reporting good results for last year, Dean Finch, group chief executive, warned that the sales rates seen over the last five months meant completions would be down ‘markedly’ this year
He added that lower completions combined with increased sales and marketing costs against a background of building cost inflation running at 8% would have a significant impact on profit margins in the year ahead.
Persimmon said it had adopted a wait and see approach until the market becomes clearer, significantly reducing land approvals and placing restrictions on hiring and new site openings.
Finch said: “We have carefully managed our pricing, recognising the improved value and energy efficiency of our product in these difficult times and sales prices have proved resilient.
“We responded quickly to stimulate sales, enhance cost controls and preserve cash, promptly slowing new land investment in the fourth quarter of last year.
“Nonetheless, the sales rates seen over the last five months mean completions will be down markedly this year and as a consequence, so will margin and profits. However, it is too early to provide firm guidance.”
Financial performance last year was knocked by an exception charge of £275m to cover safety retrofit costs. This impacted otherwise strong underlying pre-tax profit up 4% to £1bn from total revenue ahead 6% to £3.8bn.
He also pledged to start remediation works on its final 31 buildings requiring safety improvements before the year is out.
Persimmon has made good progress on the 73 buildings it identified as requiring remediation.
The house builder said it expected to spend £350m retrofitting buildings and had started or completed 42 schemes so far with the remainder due to get underway before the end of 2023.