PERSIMMON has said it saw a strong performance in the third quarter with average weekly sales rates up 38 per cent on 2019, and that it is set for a “good” result for the year.

The housebuilding giant said it is fully sold up for the current year and has around £1.36 billion of forward sales reserved beyond 2020, which was up 43% on a year earlier.

It is “well prepared” for the latest potential changes to restrictions north and south of the Border as it announced its second dividend payout after “resilient” demand for new homes, and as housebuilders were boosted by government support schemes.

READ MORE: Taylor Wimpey shares soar 18.6 per cent on new homes outlook

It said its market share has started easing back to “more normal levels” in recent weeks as activity has recovered across the wider housebuilding industry since the spring lockdown.

The company said its building sites and sales offices are continuing to operate throughout the second lockdown south of the Border, though it added a note of caution amid potential further measures to control the pandemic and economic uncertainty.

The group, which operates on sites across the UK, has “continued to operate in full compliance with devolved Government guidelines”, including closing sales offices in Wales during the local two-week lockdown and re-opening on Monday.

It said: “These measures, together with the recent tightening of Covid-19 restrictions across England and Scotland, had a relatively limited impact on the group’s operations.”

READ MORE: Wall Street hits record high as global traders cheer Pfizer vaccine update

It declared another interim dividend payout to investors of 70p a share, on top of the 40p a share paid out in September.

Together, the payouts replace the 110p a share final divi for 2019 that was postponed at the beginning of the crisis.

Persimmon’s recently appointed chief executive Dean Finch, who took on the role at the end of September, said: “Persimmon continues to perform robustly despite the significant challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and we are currently on course to deliver a good result for 2020.”

The group added: “We are well prepared for this second lockdown and continue to work with our subcontractors and supply chain to maintain the group’s operations.

“We remain mindful, however, of the potential for further disruption from additional Government-mandated measures to control the pandemic and the impact of ongoing uncertainty on the UK economy.”

Shares fell 6% at one stage despite the dividend cheer and bullish outlook, and closed at 2,682p, down 4%.

It said it has strong liquidity with a cash balance of £960m against £371m last October.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “Help to Buy and the end to the stamp duty exemption are just over the horizon and because of this the latest news from Persimmon will be tinged with an element of wariness.

“In these turbulent times when lockdowns strangle the spending of consumers, and lenders exercise greater caution, Persimmon and all of those in the house building sector may want to see continued help from central Government.”

Neil Shah, director of research for Edison Group, said: “Similar to Taylor Wimpey and other competitors in this space, the York-based group has found that demand for houses has remained resilient since lockdowns were lifted in June: up on 2019, average private weekly sales rates per site for the quarter were at 38% and, as a result, sale completions in the second half are expected to surpass, or at least match, those in the same period in 2019. Moreover, with £1.4bn in forward-sales reserved for 2021 and beyond, and approximately £960m in cash reserves, Persimmon is in a strong position.”

Persimmon has just over 30 sites operating across Scotland, including the Willows on the outskirts of Edinburgh, providing a wide range of homes from two bedroom apartments to four bedroom homes, the Boulevard, south of Glasgow city centre, providing two, three and four bedroom homes and Mosswater View, which is just to the west of Cumbernauld in the area of Smithstone and offers four and five bedroom homes.