But housebuilder also reports 2% drop in selling prices and fall in revenue

Housebuilder Persimmon has announced a 55% hike in pre-tax profit for 2011.

It said pre-tax profit for the year to December 31 was £148.1m, against a 2010 figure of £95.5m, however full-year revenue declined to £1.54bn from £1.57bn.

Persimmon also reported a 2% drop in average selling price, from £169,339 in 2010 to £166,142 last year, citing a greater proportion of first-time-buyer homes in the sales “mix”.

Legal completions were down slightly from 9,384 in 2010 to 9,360 last year.

Group chairman Nicholas Wrigley said the jump in profit was the result of improved operating margins, investing in high quality land and generating surplus cash to pay down debt.

“Looking ahead, we have made a strong start to the year, with forward sales up by 9.4% to £927 million,” he said.

“Visitor levels and reservations continue on an improving trend and, although we expect the UK housing market to remain difficult.”

Persimmon also announced plans to return £1.9bn in cash to shareholders from 2013 to 2021, following a strategic review.