Buoyant market helps residential REITs deliver strong February results

Zoe FieldingMarch 10, 20150 min read

Buoyant residential property markets helped Australia’s stock exchange-listed home builders deliver strong interim results in the first half of the financial year, February’s reporting season revealed.

The largest listed residential developer, Stockland Property Group, reported a 73% improvement in its home building business in the first half of 2015, which lifted group profit by 55.1% to $462 million.

Stockland chief executive Mark Steinert said the residential business was bolstered by improved market conditions and strategies the company had put in place to increase speed to market and broaden its customer target markets.

Improving market conditions and higher production levels also helped AV Jennings increase its profit. The company reported $11.9 million net profit after tax, up 42.1% compared with the same period in 2014. Chief executive Peter Summers said residential markets in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne were stable to strong, while South Australia’s market was more subdued.

Mirvac chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz forecast continuing growth in residential property prices with Sydney in particular supported by an “entrenched undersupply” of homes. Mirvac, which like Stockland develops and invests in both residential and commercial property, reported a 13.4% increase in profit to $279 million, with operating profit after tax rising by 15.5% to $231.2 million compared with the half to December 2013.

Analysts at Morningstar said that while surging residential prices and volumes have driven earnings for residential developers, they believe the sub-sector is operating close to peak profitability.

“The significant improvement in mortgage affordability has driven a spike in household approvals. Part of this increase will alleviate pent-up demand in some markets (mainly Sydney) but we believe a material part of the increase reflects the “bringing forward” of dwelling purchase decisions,” the analysts noted.

“The issue for developers is any rise in interest rates, which doesn’t appear likely in the near term, will result in a double hit to margins because of lower volumes and softer prices. As in past down cycles, the developers who add to their land banks late in the cycle are most at risk.”

Other listed residential developers including Peet and Villa World also boosted profits, while Cedar Woods forecast record performance for its full year despite a weaker first half.

Villa World reported a $13 million first-half profit, up from $7.6 million in the prior corresponding period and predicted its full-year before-tax profit would hit $28.5 million.

Peet Group reported a first-half profit of $13.2 million, 30% higher than the same period of 2014. Chief executive Brendan Gore forecast continued improvement in the second half.

“The Australian housing market fundamentals remain positive with a sustained period of record low interest rates, low inflation rate and continued population growth,” Gore said in a statement to the ASX. “However, the factors putting pressure on official cash rates – weaker jobs market, slow wages growth, and lower commodity prices – are also having some impact on consumer and business confidence, particularly in Western Australia.”

Another Western Australian developer, Cedar Woods Properties, reported a $9.1 million first-half profit, 55.8% lower than in the previous first-half, but it also issued profit guidance for the full-year of $41 million, which would be a record for the company.

Cedar Woods said strong pre-sales and a solid delivery program would help it achieve its forecast result, assuming markets remained sound.

Finbar, which is also based in Western Australia, reported a worse result than in the first half of 2014. Managing director Darren Pateman said the $11 million first-half profit was due to project completion timing not working in the company’s favour but said it was still expecting a solid full financial year with the completion of other projects anticipated in the second half.

Zoe Fielding

I am a freelance journalist and editor with more than 15 years experience specialising in personal finance, property, financial services and financial technology. A skilled writer and researcher, I have extensive experience producing high quality content for corporate and media clients. I am used to working to tight deadlines and tailoring the pieces I produce to suit a variety of audiences and formats.
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