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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Housebuilders suffer UK slowdown
Iain Napier, chief executive of Taylor Woodrow
Under Iain Napier(left), Taylor Woodrow continues to expand into the US
The slowdown in the UK housing market has hit the fortunes of two of the country's leading housebuilders, George Wimpey and Taylor Woodrow.

Pre-tax profits at both firms fell in the first half of the year after the number of new UK houses sold declined.

Most economists believe the UK housing market is experiencing a 'soft landing' this year with prices largely flat.

The two companies said the UK market was challenging, but they remained confident because of strong US growth.

Weak UK market

Both George Wimpey and Taylor Woodrow are expanding their operations in the US, which are concentrated in Florida and California.

The UK market has proved tough for both companies, however, with consumers increasingly cautious about large financial commitments.

The outlook in the UK remains uncertain for the rest of this year
Iain Napier, Taylor Woodrow

Operating profit from UK activities fell 31% at George Wimpey in the six months to 3 July while house completions fell 10%.

Taylor Woodrow saw its UK housing profits fall 17% while completions dropped by the same amount.

At a group level, Wimpey's pre-tax profits fell 21% to 122.3m while Taylor Woodrow saw a 3% drop to 170.4m.

Wimpey said activity in the UK had remained largely stable in the first half of the year - with selling prices flat - although at a much lower level than the same period last year.

Diversified strategy

The company said it was confident about its future prospects because of strong growth in the US housing market, where completions rose 16%.

"George Wimpey continues to benefit from having businesses in the UK and US," said chief executive Peter Johnson.

"This provides us with the opportunity to balance our investments as market conditions change."

Profits from overseas activities accounted for 45% of Taylor Woodrow's profits over the period compared with 32% this time last year, reflecting the UK downturn.

"Taylor Woodrow has continued to benefit from a diversified market strategy," said its chief executive Iain Napier.

"The outlook in the UK remains uncertain for the rest of this year although the longer term market fundamentals are strong."

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