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UK Housebuilder Persimmon's Profit Inches Up

British housebuilder Persimmon reported a 1 percent rise in full-year pretax profit on Tuesday and said it remained cautious on the year ahead, as prospective buyers were taking longer to buy homes.

It reported 585.1 million pounds ($1.15 billion) in pretax profit for 2007, compared with analysts' forecasts of between 575 million and 600 million.

"Visitor levels have improved each week since the beginning of the year, but conversion to sales ratios have remained challenging ... We have been experiencing a period of a 'wait and see' approach," it said in a statement.

Persimmon, Britain's biggest housebuilder by market value and number three in terms of homes built, said its order book for 2008 fell to 1.05 billion pounds from 1.3 billion a year ago.

"Against the current backdrop, we expect the timing of sales and completions this year to be more weighted to the second half of the year than usual ... In the meantime we remain cautious," it said.

Operating profit margins for 2007 margin rose to 21.8 percent from 20.8 percent, as average selling prices increased by 1 percent to 189,558 pounds.