“Help-to-buy scheme pushes housebuilder dividends to £2.3bn”

“Britain’s biggest housebuilders paid out £2.3bn in dividends in their most recent financial year, as the help-to-buy subsidy pumped up their profits and house prices.

The nine biggest housebuilders listed on the London Stock Exchange declared the dividend payouts in their last full financial years, according to an analysis by AJ Bell, an investment platform.

Help to buy, introduced in 2013 and recently extended until 2023 for first-time buyers, was one of the flagship policies of the coalition government. Former Conservative chancellor George Osborne hoped to boost home ownership among young people, as house price growth far outpaced wage growth.

However, many economists believe the scheme boosted house prices without making a significant impact on the supply of new houses, enabling a profits bonanza for Britain’s biggest housebuilders and their shareholders.

In 2012, the final full year before the help-to-buy scheme was introduced, the top nine firms – many of which had been battered by the financial crash – paid dividends of only £57.7m, according to AJ Bell. Dividends declared in the companies’ most recent financial year were about 39 times greater.

Since 2013 the nine housebuilders have paid out nearly £8bn in dividends, while City analysts forecast another £5.2bn in payouts in 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, shareholders have also enjoyed appreciation in housebuilders’ share prices, which have been sustained by the promise of further profits.

Persimmon, half of whose sales were part of help to buy, was responsible for 2018’s largest giveaway. Its shareholders collectively earned £732m in dividends in the year ending in December, after the company earned more than £1bn in profits.

Taylor Wimpey declared dividends of slightly less than £500m during the same period. Barratt Developments declared £435m in the year ending in June 2018. Bellway, Berkeley Group and Bovis all declared dividends of more than £120m in their last full financial year.

The large profits of housebuilders have attracted heavy criticism, amid a continued housing crisis and rising homelessness. Persimmon’s former chief executive, Jeff Fairburn, resigned in November following public fury over his £75m bonus, which had been scaled back from £110m after investor outrage. …”