Veteran boss Farley calls it a day at healthy Persimmon

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The Independent Online

Persimmon boss Mike Farley yesterday called time on a seven-year stint as chief executive after successfully steering the housebuilder through the credit crunch.

Mr Farley, pictured, who turns 60 in June and has spent nearly 30 years with the business, is handing over the reins to group managing director Jeff Fairburn in April.

Persimmon – named after the racehorse which won the Epsom Derby in 1896 – was the only builder not forced to raise cash to get through some of the worst conditions that the construction industry has ever seen during the 2007/8 crisis.

The firm also avoided beartraps like Barratt Developments' poorly timed acquisition of Wilson Bowden at the top of the market in 2007, as well as George Wimpey's disastrous merger with Taylor Woodrow.

Although the share price is around half the 2007 peak, Persimmon is still the UK's most valuable builder with market capitalisation of £2.5bn.

During his time in charge, Farley slashed the group's £1.2bn debt into a £200m cash pile.

"Now the company is in great shape, we've had a good year and we've made great headway on margins," Mr Farley said.

Persimmon is also on track with plans to return £1.9bn to shareholders over nine and a half years, and today reported a 6 per cent rise in housing completions to 9,903. Revenues jumped by 12 per cent to £1.72bn.

The company's shares edged 1p lower to 836p.