Fletcher Living   |   2 months ago

Construction giant Fletcher Building spends a further $57 million on land purchases for housing development; sees future profits from housing as much higher

Construction giant Fletcher Building has been splashing the cash as it accumulates what its managing director Mark Adamson is now describing as a "massive land bank", particularly in the Auckland area. Fletcher Building's cashflow statements for the half year to December show that in the period the company forked out $57 million for residential land holdings. In the previous whole year Fletcher had shelled out just $28 million on land purchases. In the latest half year the company's housing operations recorded an 18% increase in operating earnings to $33 million. The company's now expecting that a previously anticipated fall in full-year housing earnings of around $15 million from last year's $49 million won't eventuate and the profits in the housing area will actually be up for 2015 financial year. While the company last year abandoned tentative plans to look at manufacturing prefab houses, it is pushing ahead with plans to treble its house sales over the next three years - from an earlier rate of about 300 units a year to about 1000. Bright spot The housing division earnings were a notable bright spot in an overall result that saw Fletcher's net profit after tax slip to $114 million from $154 million after write-downs in the value of some of its businesses. Fletcher's housing earnings have been underpinned in the recent past by its its development of bespoke homes on the old Stonefields quarry in suburban Auckland. The profits from the Stonefields development were seen as winding down, but Fletcher Building now thinks they can be continued for the next 18 months, helping to underpin earnings. "We have managed to carve out further deals with the [Stonfields] developer for further developments," Adamson said. "We are looking to increase margins by developing different types of topography, as they call it - terraces and townhouses rather than single family dwellings. So less moving the price and more moving the margin because of the nature of what we are building down there - and they have been quite clever with that. Showing through "And they think that will have another 18 months albeit at a lower rate - by which time some of the developments that we've acquired more recently will start to show through in earnings." Adamson, who has been at the helm of Fletcher Building for the past two years, said that the Stonefields development had been previously "something of a one-off" for the company. "Fletchers wasn't really a serious residential developer," he said. "Fairly early on in my reign I recognised that was something missing in our portfolio. Investing heavily "We have invested heavily in a land bank - [but] that doesn't tell the full story because a lot of the land we have purchased we have done so on a contingency basis or a pay when we build basis... "So, we have a massive land bank now compared to previously [when] it was just Stonefields [which] did have a finite life.

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