* H1 underlying pretax up 57 pct at 212.9 mln stg
* Sells 6,408 new homes, up 28 percent on year before
* Forward sales up 22 pct at 1.5 bln stg
* Shares up 0.5 pct after early jump to five-month high
(Adds CEO comments, analyst reaction, shares)
By Paul Sandle
LONDON, Aug 19 British housebuilder Persimmon
Plc posted a 57 percent profit rise and said it was
trading ahead of last year in the traditionally slower summer
period, having seen little evidence so far of a recently flagged
slowdown in the housing market.
Its shares jumped to a five-month high before giving up most
of the gains to trade up 0.5 percent at 1,342 pence by 0853 GMT.
Persimmon, whose lime green logo sprouts from some 400
developments across Britain, is among major housebuilders to
have benefited from government schemes such as "Help to Buy",
which enables buyers with small deposits to get a mortgage.
Chief Executive Jeff Fairburn said the group had worked hard
to increase volume to meet demand, encouraged by government
measures to underpin the housing market and help stimulate
broader economic growth.
Persimmon sold 6,408 new homes in the six months to
end-June, up 28 percent on the year before and reflecting the
same trend as benefited rival Bovis Homes Group Plc,
which on Monday posted a 150 profit jump thanks to a record
number of completions.
Help to Buy, under which the government offers a guarantee
for any mortgage borrowing above 80 percent of a property's
value up to a maximum 95 percent, along with the growing
availability of mortgage financing, have been instrumental in
the market's upturn.
Property prices recorded their biggest annual rise last
month since the start of the financial crisis, according to
mortgage lender Halifax (part of Lloyds Banking Group Plc
However, there are signs that rises might be starting to
moderate, with a survey on Monday showing asking prices falling
in August at the sharpest rate on record for that month.
Fairburn said Persimmon was seeing a "little bit more
seasonality" but visitor levels to its sites this year were
still up about 6 percent on the year before.
"We are pleased with the rate we are seeing," he said. "We
have good forward sales (of properties reserved or bought but
not yet completed), up 22 percent at 1.5 billion pounds, which
gives us good visibility to press on with the build."
Sales reservations in the traditionally slower summer months
were ahead of last year, up 9 percent in the period since July
9, he added.
Persimmon, which flagged last month that revenue had risen
by a third to 1.2 billion pounds ($2 billion), reported a
first-half underlying pretax profit of 212.9 million pounds.
Analyst Clyde Lewis at brokerage Peel Hunt, who has a "hold"
rating on the stock with a price target of 1,455 pence, said
Persimmon had made excellent progress in the first half.
"Recent trading has held up well, despite tougher comps," he
said, referring to comparisons with last year's numbers.
"Management expects to see first-half volumes account for 48
percent of full-year figures; this implies a small upgrade to
our estimates, along with a slight tickle on our ASP (average
selling price) assumption."
The builder is predicted to post a full-year pretax profit
of 439.2 million pounds, according to a Thomson Reuters poll of
15 analysts, up on a 2013 profit of 329.6 million.
($1 = 0.5986 British Pounds)
(Additional reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Karolin
Schaps and David Holmes)