Given the strong progress the Group has made, the Board announced an acceleration of, and an increase to, the Capital Return Plan on 23 February 2016. Minimising financial risk and retaining flexibility for reinvestment in the business remain key priorities. The Board is of the firm belief that the prioritisation of capital discipline through the housing cycle is critical to the successful delivery of sustainable, superior shareholder value and, therefore, maintained the original long term Capital Return Plan period commitment to 2021.
Accordingly, the Company accelerated the payment of a cash return of £338m, or 110 pence per share, as an interim dividend for 2015 which was paid on 1 April 2016. This was an increase of 100 pence per share on the provisional 10 pence per share payment proposed under the previous Plan schedule, and an increase of 15 pence per share, or 16%, on the 95 pence per share paid in 2015. To date £1.1bn, or £3.50 per share, has been returned to shareholders.
In addition, on 23 February 2016 the Board increased the total value of capital to be returned to shareholders within the original Capital Return Plan period by c. £860m, or £2.80 per share, over the plan period to 2021. The total value of the Capital Return Plan therefore increased to c. £2.76bn, or £9.00 per share, an increase of 45% over the original Plan value.
The future Capital Return Plan payment of £5.50 per share was set to be paid in equal instalments of £1.10 per share over the remaining five years of the Plan period, commencing in early July 2017.
The Board has completed its review of the availability of surplus capital of the Group and is pleased to announce a further increase in the Capital Return Plan of 25 pence per share to be paid on 31 March 2017. This additional payment of surplus capital will be a first interim dividend in respect of the year ended 31 December 2016 paid to shareholders on the register on 10 March 2017. In addition, the Board is pleased to confirm the scheduled payment of 110 pence per share will be made on 3 July 2017 as a second interim dividend with respect to the financial year ended 31 December 2016, to shareholders on the register on 16 June 2017.
As a result the Capital Return Plan to 2021 has now been increased by 49% to £9.25 per share.