By Kristy Dorsey

Springfield Properties has scrapped payment of its interim dividend and is closing down all of its building sites, offices and kit factory until further notice.

In a letter to staff on the company’s website, group chief executive Innes Smith acknowledged there had been conflicting advice from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on whether construction sites should close down. However, “we know what the right thing is to do”.

“We want to help save lives and we want to be on the right side of history,” Mr Smith said.

“Today we are asking site managers to come in and make the sites safe and secure. This may take some labour but this work is essential and should be done.

“If we can hand over a house that is complete then we will, but if we can’t then we can’t.”

The Scottish housebuilder is “pressing the pause button”, he added, and will be ready to “press play again when it is right”.

Headquartered in Elgin, Springfield employs more than 500 people and is currently active on 20 sites throughout the country. It completed 438 new homes in the first half of the financial year to November 30, a 15.6% increase on the same period a year earlier.

Mr Smith said some staff may be required to continue working to ensure payments are made to employees and suppliers, and to communicate with customers. However, calls to the company’s head office yesterday afternoon confirmed that it is closed.

In a separate release to the stock exchange yesterday morning, Springfield said it is also withdrawing its proposed interim dividend of 1.4p per share in a bid to preserve cash. The move will result in a saving of £1.4 million.

The group said its cash position is currently strong, with net debt of £56m but a £67m credit facility with Bank of Scotland.

Announcing its interim financial results in February, Springfield said it had entered the second half of the year with a strong order book through to the end of May. At that time, it was predicting full-year growth in line with market expectations.

The pandemic has not yet impacted completions or reservations, the company said yesterday, but the situation is “rapidly evolving”. Given the economic uncertainties, Springfield is implementing a number of measures to preserve cash.