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UPDATE 1-Persimmon says CEO to retire
* Mike Farley to be succeeded by Jeff Fairburn
* Sees underlying operating margin at 13 pct
* FY revenue up 12 pct to 1.72 bln stg
LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - British housebuilder Persimmon said its chief executive would retire in April after seven years at the helm as it posted a 12 percent rise in annual revenue and improving margins.
Mike Farley, who has been with the company for more than three decades, will be succeeded by Jeff Fairburn, the group's managing director and chief executive of its Northern division.
The largest British housebuilder by market value said its underlying operating margin strengthened in the second half and was expected to rise to 13 percent for the full year.
The group is targeting a margin of 15-17 percent in the medium term.
It said revenue for the year to Dec. 31 was 1.72 billion pounds ($2.77 billion), up 12 percent, as its average selling price rose 6 percent to 173,400 pounds and the number of new home it legally completed also increased 6 percent.
British house prices posted a surprise monthly rise in December, although they were likely to remain broadly flat in 2013, mortgage lender Halifax said on Monday.
Britain's economy moved out of recession in the third quarter, but concerns linger over its reliance on the weak euro zone for trade.
Housebuilders, however, are benefiting from a lack of available new homes in Britain and government measures to spur the market, which have shored up demand despite a tough economic backdrop.
Persimmon said the FirstBuy scheme could boost sales over the next few months, but some housing experts say the schemes could fail to significantly free up mortgage lending, which means sales growth could tail off.
Analysts on average are expecting the group to report full-year group pretax profit of 210 million pounds according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.
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