The boss of Taylor Wimpey has said the housebuilding giant will look to ramp up developments in areas outside normal commuter belts as the Covid-19 crisis increases the trend for long-term home-working.
Chief executive Pete Redfern told the PA news agency it is looking to buy land across the UK to take advantage of cheaper prices, but with a particular focus on regions such as East Anglia and the South West as the pandemic drives a boom in home-working.
It comes after the company raised £522 million through an investor cash call to help fund a land-buying offensive across the UK.
Taylor said the equity raise would help it capitalise on disruption in Britain’s land market as result of the coronavirus crisis, which has created “short-term opportunities to acquire land from a broad range of sources at attractive returns and prices below pre-Covid-19 levels”.
Mr Redfern said the pandemic is set to deepen trends for home-working even after the lockdown, increasing demand for properties in areas further out from big cities and for houses with space for home offices.
He said the group has already seen rising demand in recent years from buyers who work from home or have a partial weekday commute.
The coronavirus crisis will “increase that trend towards markets which are accessible and attractive places to live, but don’t work if you have to be in the City every day of the week”, he added.
The group said it received “strong support” for the share placing with institutional and retail investors, having originally aimed to raise £500 million.
Taylor placed 355 million new shares at 145p each, along with a subscription of 324,823 from directors of the firm and a retail offer of 4.9 million shares, including around £1.15 million from nearly 330 employees who took part.
It has continued to actively acquire land throughout the pandemic, buying 12 sites in recent weeks.
The group said the money raised – including £200,000 from chief executive Pete Redfern – would go towards another 13 sites it is currently buying as well as 60 more it is in discussions to acquire.
The equity raise will add to the £800 million or so from its own capital being spent on land investments.
Taylor also said it would pay back money used under the Government’s furlough scheme for workers.
As of June 1, all employees had returned from furlough, it added.
Mr Redfern stressed that the land investments were part of a long-term view of demand for housing, with sites being bought now set for development in 2022-23.
The group began a phased reopening of its building sites from May 4, though construction firms had been allowed to continue operating throughout the lockdown.
It also reopened its sales centres and show homes on May 22 for pre-booked appointments only.
The High Wycombe-based firm plans to return to around 80% of building capacity by the end of June.