The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE) Tuesday announced a net loss for the first quarter of 2009 of $11.7 million, -$0.13 per share, including non-cash charges of $1.5 million, or $0.01 per share after tax. For the comparable quarter last year, the company reported net income of $32.1 million, $0.40 per share, including non-cash charges of $2.8 million, $0.02 per share, after tax.

"Although Northwest Florida's real estate markets remain challenging, our residential communities have seen a relatively modest improvement in traffic and sales activity since the end of last year," said Britt Greene, St, Joe's President and CEO. "However, it is too early to predict a bottom or a trend. The actions we have taken, such as adjusting pricing for our inventory of homes, has helped us to respond to a market that seems interested but remains timid. We are also seeing measured activity in our commercial markets throughout the region."

At March 31, 2009, JOE had cash and pledged treasury securities of $138.2 million, compared to debt of $49.2 million, $28.5 million of which is defeased debt. JOE's $100 million line of credit remains undrawn at March 31, 2009.

The company did not report specific details of its residential real estate operations other than to report a decline in residential real estate sales to $3.9 million from $9.8 million in the comparable quarter last year. Total revenue was down to $21.6 million from $116.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

"In light of the current economic challenges, we strengthened our liquidity position by virtually eliminating our debt, enhancing our cash position and securing a new credit facility in early 2008," said William S. McCalmont, JOE's executive vp and CFO. "We continue to take a very prudent approach as we manage our assets and continue to reduce capital expenditures, as well as operating and overhead expenses. We have the flexibility to execute our strategy on our valuable land holdings proximate to the new [Panama City-Bay County] international airport."

During the first quarter this year, JOE incurred cash overhead costs of $17.3 million, compared to $24.4 million for the first quarter last year, a 29% reduction. In addition, capital expenditures for the first quarter this year were $5.5 million, compared to $18.2 million in the first quarter last year, a reduction of 70%.

The company has accelerated preconstruction development activity on one thousand acres in West Bay adjacent to the new international airport scheduled to open in May 2010. The land is being planned for office, retail and industrial users.

"With the scheduled airport opening now one year away, we are working to position several initial parcels near the airport to be revenue-ready,'" said Greene. "Our land at West Bay is a world-class asset, and our marketing outreach is to global users."

On March 31, 2009, St. Joe owned approximately 585,000 acres, concentrated primarily in Northwest Florida. Approximately 405,000 acres, or 70% of JOE's total land holdings, are within 15 miles of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

On March 31, 2009, the company's land-use entitlements in hand or in process totaled approximately 45,000 residential units and approximately 13.8 million square feet of commercial space, as well as an additional 589 acres with land-use entitlements for commercial uses.