UK Housebuilding Sector: Q3 2017

10 Oct 2017 / Corporate research

$ 64,000 Prologue

In mathematics, 64 is a superperfect number and one of only four less than 100.

It is also the number of squares on a chessboard, total positions in the Kama Sutra, a famous Beatles’ song (prefixed by “When I’m”) and my age last birthday – during Q3, the quarter under review here.

However, it was first monetised by the US radio show ‘Take It or Leave It’ in the 1940s on which seven questions were asked with the prize money (and level of difficulty) doubling each time from $1 to $64. Also, the contestant could bail and take the money (i.e. $8) at any time after a successful answer to Question 4. In 1955, the programme made its move to television with massively inflated prize money and the re-jigged moniker ‘The $64,000 Question’.

This expensive interrogatory entered Anglo Saxon and, indeed, international vernacular as did the original programme name: “Take It or Leave It” – and the incipient risk manager’s exhortatory “You’ll be sorrr-REEEE”.

64,000 times 640,000 is also the current monetary worth of the UK Housebuilders i.e. on the first trading day of Q4, the market value rose 2.7% to £41 billion. This is 38% more than a year ago with Persimmon at circa three times book value. Similarly, while consensus earnings growth is forecast at 13% this year and next – the score is 2% in 2019.

In an increasingly capital-employed-light sector, dividends are also more important (in the UK housebuilder ‘bond’ market); and yields are above 4% prospective.

More broadly, the UK macro-economic questions are becoming more and more difficult too. The weak British Pound has done little for contestants and average earnings are adrift of a ‘little bit’ of inflation (unless you are a pensioner).

On a brighter note, the Conservative ‘coalition’ has announced an extra £10 billion in prize money to provide loans under ‘Help to Buy’ through to 2021 (housebuilder’s share price also won, as a result).

The perspicacious housebuilders have answered six of the seven mythical questions put to them during the show. Near term it would be previous to “Take It” but longer term “you’ll be sorry”.