Housesbuilder Countryside Properties has exceeded its own expectations for the first half of its financial year, ending the period in a stronger cash position than it forecast.

Countryside’s Great Kneighton scheme in Cambridge

The firm completed 1,655 homes in the six months to the end of March, up 15% from 1,437 at the same point in 2017.

Adjusted revenue rose 7% to £468m from £435.4m the year before, with the average selling price on private residences sliding to £392,000 from £441,000.

Pre-tax profit climbed to £73.7m from £60.3m, while the adjusted operating margin rose nine-tenths of a percentage point to 17.2% from 16.3%.

The firm ended the reporting period with net cash of £13.7m, compared to debt of £35mn at the end of March 2017.

As a result of the cash windfall the group has revealed a sharp rise in its dividend per share, which soared 21% to 4.2p from 3.4p.

Ian Sutcliffe, chief executive of Countryside, said: “We continue to deliver our strong organic growth trajectory with robust trading in all regions. We enter the second half in great shape and our acquisition of Westleigh will further increase our momentum by expanding our geographic reach and mixed tenure delivery. With continued strong growth in Partnerships and improved efficiency and returns in the Housebuilding division we remain confident of maintaining our sector leading growth over the medium-term.”