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Barratt warns of ‘marked slowdown’ in housing market

The boss of housebuilding giant Barratt Developments has warned of a “marked slowdown” in the UK housing market over the past six months.

The FTSE 100 firm said “political and economic uncertainty” affected the market over the quarter to September, which was then compounded by “rapid and significant” changes to mortgage rates into the latest quarter.

The company told shareholders on Wednesday that it has “significantly” cut back on purchasing land in response to the backdrop.

Barratt said it approved 16 new sites over the half-year to December 31 but highlighted that this was more than offset by 22 previously approved sites with which it will now not proceed.

It also revealed that it has suspended recruitment of new employees to support its finances.

The group said reservation activity over the next few months will determine whether it needs to take further cost-cutting action.

However, it said it nevertheless delivered a “strong” performance over the six-month period as it worked through its forward order book.

As a result, the firm said total home completions grew by 6.9% compared with the same period a year earlier, to 8,626.

Chief executive David Thomas said: “We have delivered a strong operating performance for the six months to December 31 2022.

“This was possible because of our significant forward order book at June 30 2022 and the tremendous efforts of our employees, sub-contractors and supply chain partners.

“The first half of the financial year has, however, seen a marked slowdown in the UK housing market.

“Political and economic uncertainty impacted the first quarter; this was then compounded by rapid and significant changes in mortgage rates which reduced affordability, homebuyer confidence and reservation activity through the second quarter.”

Shares slipped 1% to 419.4p in early trading on Wednesday.