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Persimmon plots a £1.9bn share return

HOUSEBUILDER Persimmon is preparing to open nine more sites in Scotland in the coming six months as its executives promised investors they could return £1.9 billion of surplus cash over the next decade while continuing to grow.

Managing director Jeff Fairburn told The Herald that sales completions were "sustained" in Scotland during 2011 as it opened 15 new sites and bought more land north of the Border.

He said: "We have seen a good start to the year. Visitor levels are up and we have got a good forward sales position."

Persimmon is building in locations including Newton Mearns, Aberdeen, Gala-shiels and Dumfries, and Mr Fairburn said the firm's assessment was that the Scottish housing market was performing in line with the rest of the UK. "Excluding the inner London market, we see a pretty consistent picture across the board," he said.

Around one-third of the company's sales involve a part-exchange, a service Mr Fairburn said was particularly well utilised in Scotland.

Persimmon promised to return £1.9bn to shareholders over the next decade while remaining debt-free.

The money, equivalent to 620p, will be paid through dividends, starting in 2013.

Persimmon, Britain's largest housebuilder by market value, reported a 55% rise in underlying pre-tax profit to £148.1 million, around £6m higher than the City had expected.

The firm proposed a final dividend of 6p, up from 4.5p for last year, to be paid on June 15. Persimmon's shares closed up 79.5p, or 12.7%, at 706.5p.

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