UK builder Persimmon shuts construction sites and cancels dividend
Catherine Newman

British house builder Persimmon said on Wednesday that it would begin an orderly shutdown of its construction sites, with only essential work taking place during the pandemic.  

The company also said all of its sales offices would close from Thursday and it would cancel the dividend of 125 pence a share due to be paid on 2 April and postpone the payment of 110 pence a share on 6 July to conserve cash. 

In a trading update, the business said: "While we will continue to support existing and new customers on the telephone and/or online, all customer care site visits will cease except for emergencies."

It added: "All Persimmon regional offices will also close, with only a skeleton staff to facilitate the wider workforce working from home.

"Construction sites are commencing an orderly shutdown with only essential work taking place, which will be focused on making partly built homes safe and secure and where failure to complete the build could put customers in a vulnerable position."

The company will also postpone the proposed annual, final dividend payment of 110p per share on 6 July 2020 and reassess it later in the calendar year when the effects of the virus will be more known.  

"Whilst the company's regular annual payment of at least 110p per share has been stress tested for payment through the housebuilding industry cycle, the COVID-19 virus presents an exceptional set of circumstances," it said. 

"Persimmon entered the current year with a strong balance sheet including cash holdings of £844m, land creditors of £435m (£268m payable over 2020) and industry-leading land holdings of 93,246 plots owned and under control."

The company added: "The board remains confident of the group's future prospects."