Housebuilder George Wimpey yesterday topped forecasts with a pretax profit of £152.3 million for the half-year to July 2 2006, up from £122.3 million the prior year and ahead of the £143 million expected by analysts.

In comment alongside the figures, the group also said it anticipated that the outcome for 2006 will be in line with expectations.

The company, which is involved in a number of projects in the West Midlands, said the significant progress seen in the first half of 2005 resulted from strengthening performance and volume growth in the UK combined with profit growth in the US.

Revenues rose 19 per cent to £1.4 billion from £1.2 billion. And the board increased the interim dividend to 6.3 pence from 5.7 pence to reflect its confidence in the future.

Chairman John Robinson said the group completed on 7,822 homes in the six month period, which is a 25 year record. He said the board remained confident in the long term future of the business, both in the UK and US.

Chief executive Peter Redfern added that going forward, focus will be to strengthen the key areas of land acquisition, cost control and sales leadership.

With this in mind the group also announced yesterday the purchase of the 46 acre Peugeot Stoke Works in Coventry which has planning permission for 1,400 homes.

"Transactions such as this have enabled us to grow our group landbank to a record 78,192 plots giving our businesses their strongest ever landbank," Mr Redfern said.

He added that the group's strategy was to deliver shareholder value by creating a market leading business across the UK and in the regions in which it operates in the US.

"We believe that the business plans we have put in place along with the long term fundamentals of both markets will enable us to achieve this," he said.

Morrison Homes operates in markets with some of the strongest underlying housing trends in the US and Redfern said the board believes these markets provide Wimpey with "excellent" growth opportunities.

"Our strategy is to strengthen each of our regional positions to maximise the benefits of scale and deliver long term growth. We will do this by developing the product range and landbank within our existing business, and by opening new satellite operations where existing relationships and Morrisons brand values create opportunities for us."

In the UK, it is expected that market conditions will remain stable, Mr Red-fern continued.

Against this backdrop he said the group is planning for private completions in the second half to be at a broadly similar level to those in the second half of 2005. Total completions for the year are expected to show progress on 2005.

The strong sales performance to date along with continued focus on margin improvement in the second half will enable further progress in the UK for the year as a whole, he added.

In the US, with continuing short term uncertainty in the housing market, Mr Redfern said it remained difficult to predict the outcome for the remainder of 2006.

UK housing reported total revenue of £1.03 billion in the half-year, up 22 per cent with completions up 28 per cent to 5,854.

However, the average selling price fell to £175,500 from £184,600.

Shares closed up 0.75 at 480.75.