British builder Taylor Wimpey aims to resume work in MayBritish builder Taylor Wimpey aims to resume work in May
FILE PHOTO: A builder working for Taylor Wimpey builds a roof on an estate in Aylesbury

By Samantha Machado

(Reuters) – Two of Britain’s best known homebuilders said on Thursday they were planning to restart construction work in the next two weeks, offering hope to thousands of contractors and suppliers whose business has been crippled by Britain’s coronavirus lockdown.

Taylor Wimpey, said on Thursday it was confident of restarting work on its construction sites on May 4 and has continued to sell houses online during the lockdown, posting solid year-on-year growth in orders.

Smaller peer Vistry, formerly known as Bovis Homes, said that it expected 90% of its sites to be back at work as early as next Monday.

Shares in Taylor Wimpey jumped 7% to 144.5 pence, while Vistry gained 6% after the news.

Although work on building sites had not been barred in Britain, many companies shut down their construction sites last month due to onsite difficulties with social distancing, which made operations unviable.

Across all sectors of the economy, companies have been scrambling to cope, with many scrapping dividend payments, pulling back guidance and drawing down credit facilities to preserve cash.

“The return to production is earlier, the order book more robust, the balance sheets more resilient – the statements from Taylor Wimpey and Vistry today appear to give us lots to be positive about”, brokerage Jefferies said.

Britain’s housing market, widely seen as an important indicator of consumer confidence and spending, has been brought to a virtual halt by the coronavirus lockdowns, with the government advising against new sales, and pricing websites saying it is almost impossible to measure current rates.

Taylor Wimpey said online sales had helped it increase its order book.

“We are still seeing continued demand for our homes and our sales teams have been selling homes remotely, and digitally, week to week,” CEO Pete Redfern said.

The company, which competes with Barratt Developments and Persimmon completed 2,271 homes, a 14.1% fall for the 16-week period ending April 19, while its order book value stood at about 2.7 million pounds, compared with 2.4 million pounds, last year.

(Reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Carmel Crimmins)