UPDATE 1-House builder Taylor Wimpey sees strong demand across UK
(Adds CEO comments)
LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) - House builder Taylor Wimpey said it benefited from a strengthening property market across Britain in the first half, helping sales rates and prices come in at the top end of its expectations.
The company completed 5,766 homes, an increase of 11 percent in the six months to end-June, it said in a trading update on Monday. The average selling price of completions rose to about 206,000 pounds ($350,500) from 188,000 pounds a year ago.
Taylor Wimpey, which builds homes across Britain, said it expected its operating profit margin to improve to about 16 percent, from 13.1 percent in the same period a year ago, and it remained on track to deliver an increase of at least 300 basis points for the year.
Chief Executive Pete Redfern said steps by the Bank of England to keep a cap on borrowers taking out mortgages they might struggle to afford when interest rates rise were stopping the market overheating.
He said accelerating price growth in London was also moderating, while price gains in other parts of the country were starting to catch up with the capital.
"More growth in the south carried on in the first couple of months of 2014," he said. "Today we are seeing broadly the same growth across both markets, probably because the market outside London have continued to pick up and the London market hasn't gone backwards but the rate of selling price growth has slowed."
Data from lender nationwide last week showed that London house prices soared 26 percent over the past year, the biggest annual jump since 1987.
Shares in Taylor Wimpey, which builds about 9 percent of its new homes within the M25 motorway that rings London, were trading down 1.8 percent at 115 pence at 1005 GMT.
($1 = 0.5877 British Pounds) (Reporting by Paul Sandle, Editing by Li-mei Hoang)