But at a time when many big companies are plunging into the red, Persimmon’s profits were strong enough for shareholders to get a 40 pence per share interim dividend
Persimmon’s revenues for the six months ended 30th June 2020 reached £1,190m (2019: £1,754m).
Pre-tax profit was £292.4m (2019: £509.3m).
The company completed 4,900 new homes (2019: 7,584) in the first six months at an average selling price of £225,066 (2019: £216,942).
Persimmon put the cost of closing down sites in April at £11.3m.
Chief executive Dave Jenkinson said: "The group, governed by its clear purpose and values, reacted responsibly, swiftly and effectively to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the safety and wellbeing of our workforce, customers and local communities our first priority. Taking an early decision not to take advantage of the furlough scheme for any colleagues, we maintained good momentum in the business, continuing to serve our customers, making detailed preparations for a safe return to work and, when it was appropriate, restarting our build programmes efficiently. Build rates were back at pre-Covid levels by the end of the period."
He continued: "Despite the significant disruption, the group's preparedness, agility and strength ensured a robust first half performance with 4,900 new home completions and further good progress made on our customer care improvement plan.
"The group has had an excellent start to the second half with a c. 49% year on year increase in average weekly private sales rates per site since the start of July and a current forward order book of c. £2.5bn, a 21% increase on last year. Our strong opening work in progress position and excellent build rate through the summer give us confidence in a positive second half outturn. We expect that by the end of September, we will have delivered c. 45% of our anticipated second half new home legal completions.”