House builder Persimmon has called on the government to introduce measures to boost the housing market as its first-half profits dived due to dwindling sales.

In its half year results for the period to 30 June Persimmon revealed net profit had fallen to £26.4m from £196.6m the previous year as sales declined to £998.4m from £1.51bn.

It said an interim dividend of 5p, where it had been 18.5p for the first half of the previous year, reflects the tough first half trading conditions and its cautious outlook.

Persimmon said the market is unlikely to recover until the economy and financial markets recover and availability of mortgages improves. It sold a total of 5,501 new homes in the first half of the year, down from 8,002 homes a year earlier, while its average selling price dropped to £181,485 from £189,255.

Pretax profit fell to £36.9m, from £281.1m the previous year.

In light of the fall in land values it said it had written down £40m from its land bank which represents around 1.5% of the value of its total landbank on its balance sheet.

John White, group chairman said: 'The business has performed well in very difficult conditions. We are confident that our business, having been restructured, is in a strong position to move forward whenever the market improves.'