Housebuilder Cairn Homes said it is withdrawing its final dividend of 2.75 cent per share for 2019 due to the "unprecedented circumstances and considerable uncertainty" surrounding the outbreak of Covid-19.

In a trading update, Cairn said is also suspending its current share buyback programme, of which about €46m of the €60m programme has been completed to date.

The company said it will suspend its existing guidance for the full year as the impact and duration of Covid-19 remains uncertain. 

Cairn said that footfall and face to face enquiries about house sales have slowed significantly over the last two weeks, although online engagement has increased

It said it is monitoring this carefully and while there remains considerable uncertainty, it expects sales activity to be negatively impacted over at least the near term and possibly for an indeterminate period of time.

"For the moment, and aligned to Government guidelines, construction activity continues across each of our active sites under extensive health and safety protocols implemented to ensure the risk to employees and subcontractors from Covid-19 is reduced and to enable social distancing," Cairn said.

Earlier this month, the company said it was seeing a positive start to the Spring 2020 selling season with strong levels of demand across its selling sites. 

Sales suites were opened on ten of its sites on March 3, including new launches of units at Oak Park in Naas and Mariavilla in Maynooth.

It said that almost 85% of forward sales are contracted and encouragingly, contracted sales have been completing in recent days and weeks, as customers look to get the keys to their new homes.

"The Board acknowledges that the actions announced today are significant. The company's focus is on prudently managing the business in the long-term interests of all stakeholders through this unprecedented time," Cairn said. 

"Finally, our number one priority is and always will be the health and safety of our employees, our subcontractors and our customers and we are taking the necessary actions to ensure this," it added.