Henry Boot holding steady

HENRY Boot, the Sheffield-based property development firm, said that transactions were being concluded and prices were stabilising despite the economic downturn.

In an interim mangement statement the firm, which also has a plant hire business as well as a construction and land promotion and development arms, said it was continuing to trade in line with management expectations for the period starting January 1 to May 15, 2009.

It added tight control of cash and costs continued to be a key focus for management and that debt levels had been futher reduced since the year end in December.

“This provides us with comfortable levels of headroom and will also enable us to take advantage of opportunitiesw arising in our marketplace,” it said.

Residential planning applications including one for 150 homes in St Albans and 245 in Monmouth have been submitted.

However, its appeal over planning refusal for a 1,000 unit scheme in Derby was unsuccessful and will see the firm being forced to write-off around £1.5m in costs.

Planning applications for commercial projects such as one for 83,000sq ft of light industrial/distribution units at Cumbernauld in Scotland have now been given the go ahead.

A mixed use development in Rotherham has already attracted tenants such as B&Q with the first phase ready in July.

Equally, the firm’s construction business is holding firm despite the sector downturn.

“We have a strong order book for this year, with some of the Decent Homes and Prison Alliance work being carried forward into 2010 and 2011,” it said.

“There is no doubt that our contracts in centrally funded Frameworks have helped cushion the reduction in private sector work, which has become increasingly scarce in 2009.

However, although its plant hire business has held up well to date particularly compressed air and access equipment, demand for general plant hire remains weak.

Henry Boot continued in its statement: “Market conditions in the property sector remain challenging with the values of land, developments in progress and completed property still under pressure.

“We do not believe that this backdrop will change significantly for the better during the remainder of 2009. It is still too early to say that the market has bottomed out, however, transactions are being concluded and there are some signs that prices are stabilising.”