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Solid sales boost homebuilder Barratt's first-half profit

(Reuters) - Homebuilder Barratt Developments <BDEV.L> on Wednesday posted an increase in first-half pretax profit as demand for lower-priced homes surged, and said it would pay a special dividend of 175 million pounds next year.

Britain's largest homebuilder has been trying to cut costs by changing the design of the houses and reducing exposure to central London by focusing on outer parts of the city.

The company said its pretax profit rose 3.7% to 423 million pounds for the six months ended Dec. 31.

The FTSE 100-listed firm said it has recorded the highest half-year home completions in 12 years.

Total forward sales, as of Feb. 2, 2020 came in at 13,043 homes, compared with 13,194 homes last year, while affordable home sales for the first half surged 28.9% to 1,699 units.

With Britain ending its 47 years of union with Europe on Jan. 31, analysts expect increased political certainty and positive market conditions to result in homebuilders taking a slightly less conservative stance on balance sheets.

UK homebuilders have had a positive view on the wider market following Boris Johnson's landside victory in December elections.

(Reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)