Persimmon 'confident' as sales power on

Persimmon, the leading housebuilder, posted a 45 per cent jump in profits and said it would perform well under more "subdued" market conditions.

Persimmon, the leading housebuilder, posted a 45 per cent jump in profits and said it would perform well under more "subdued" market conditions.

Reporting interim results, the company said it had already sold 12,000 homes this year and it was now selling for the first quarter of 2005. Analysts have forecast 13,000 sales for the whole of 2004.

Duncan Davidson, the chairman, said that although the company was forecasting price inflation at just 4 per cent for the second half of the year for its sales, he fully expected activity levels in the market to pick up next month - following the usual pattern of a lull in the summer.

"We are much more comfortable with 4 per cent [inflation]. We can maintain our margins at that level," Mr Davidson said.

Persimmon's pre-tax profit for the six months to 30 June was £220.3m, up from £151.7m last year. Analysts expected it to post profits of between £192m and £215m.

John White, the chief executive, said: "We are well placed whatever the market conditions.... We aren't complacent about the effect of increased interest rates, but we are very, very confident."

In the interim period, the company completed the sale of 6,058 homes at an average price of £171,082, up from 5,562 homes at £154,110 in the first-half of 2003. Operating margins grew to 22.7 per cent, compared with 19.4 per cent in 2003.

Persimmon boosted its interim dividend 30 per cent to 9.1p per share, and pledged that the total dividend payout for the year would be at least 23p per share, up 25 per cent on 2003 levels.

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