Pulte Homes Inc. said Tuesday its loss narrowed in its fourth quarter, as the homebuilder reported heavy charges that were partly offset by a tax gain.
The builder also reported increases in orders and completed sales for the quarter.
Pulte said Tuesday it lost $116.9 million, or 31 cents a share, in the quarter. That compares with a loss of $338.2 million, or $1.33 a share, a year earlier.
The results included $925 million in charges related to impairment of assets, the value of land, and its merger with rival Centex last year.
Those charges were balanced by an $800 million tax gain, thanks to a new tax rule allowing companies to offset past losses. As a result of the new rule, the company expects to receive a federal tax refund of $917 million.
Excluding items, Pulte's results would have been about break-even for the period.
Revenue rose 5 percent to $1.73 billion from $1.64 billion. Revenue was helped by a 13 percent increase in completed sales, partly offset by a 7 percent decrease in the average selling price, to $258,000.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting a loss of 19 cents a share on revenue of about $1.5 billion.
Orders for new homes ballooned, more than doubling to 3,748 from 1,763 a year earlier, as the company's latest quarter included results from Centex. Centex was acquired by Pulte last fall.
Like other builders, Pulte Homes has seen orders pick up due to low mortgage interest rates and a tax credit for homebuyers.
But many industry experts question how the shaky housing recovery will hold up once the tax credits — $8,000 for new buyers and $6,500 for current owners — expire at the end of April.
Recent data show the up-and-down nature of the housing market's recovery. Sales of new homes fell 7.6 percent in December for the second month in a row. The results were the weakest since March and were only 4 percent above the bottom last January.
Still, the number of people preparing to buy a home in December rose slightly from November, a positive sign heading into the spring home buying season.
With its Centex acquisition, Pulte now has more communities with cheaply priced homes, as well as desirable land in Texas and the Carolinas.
"Centex's land assets are proving to be an important resource in a market facing a limited supply of well-positioned homebuilding lots," said Richard J. Dugas, Pulte's president and CEO, in a statement.
For all of 2009, Pulte reported a net loss of $1.18 billion, or $3.75 a share, compared with a net loss of $1.47 billion, or $5.81 a share, for 2008. Full-year revenue was $4.08 billion, compared with $6.26 billion for 2008.
Analysts expected a full-year loss of $3.73 a share.
In premarket trading, Pulte shares were unchanged from Monday's close, at $11.13.
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Pulte Homes: http://www.pulte.com/
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