Avatar Holdings has registered $500 million in shelf stock with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to be issued "from time to time" for "general corporate purposes."
The registration increases by tenfold the amount of stock the company can issue. Before the registration, the company had a $50 million stock registration with only 8.8 million shares out.
Avatar's stock was trading at $20.20 a share at mid-day Monday, up slightly. Its 52-week high was $42 a share, and its low was $13.65.
Avatar spokesperson Juanita Kerrigan said the company had no comment regarding the registration, which was filed Aug. 21. The company's prospectus, however, which was filed in consort with the registration, said the Coral Gables, Fla.-based company said it hopes to eventually profit from the downturn by buying deeply discounted land in Florida.
So far, the company hasn't found any land discounted far enough, the prospectus said. "However, we believe we are approaching a window in which these opportunities will become available."
Already, Avatar holds a considerable land portfolio, so much of it raw and bought so long ago that it is nearly impossible to calculate how many years' supply it has on hand.
Despite the fact that Avatar's home building operation is practically at a standstill, closing only 70 homes last quarter, the company still has considerable overhead because of its other home building-related businesses, including the operations of amenities for its master-planned developments in Florida and Arizona. Because of the slowdown, it is still maintaining and paying the homeowner association and club operations for communities because enough houses haven't been sold to turn them over to the residents.
Avatar is as much a developer as a home builder. In the past, it has focused on developing and building out highly amenitized communities for active-adult and traditional home buyers.
"While we have curtailed our home building operations, our business is still capital intensive and requires or may require expenditures for land and infrastructure development, housing construction, and funding of operating deficits, or providing working capital as well as potential new acquisition and development opportunities," the prospectus said.
Once it sells off its existing unsold houses, including models, Avatar said it plans to introduce new smaller and less tricked-out houses so it can sell homes at lower price points when the market recovers.
But it hasn't set a date on that.
"We continue to defer the introduction of new housing products or recommencing developing activities in our existing communities until such times as we believe that our markets would enable us to construct and sell new homes at an acceptable profit," according to the prospectus.
Despite its heavy concentration in Florida, Avatar's balance sheet was slow to show the effects of the market downturn. It didn't start losing money until 2008 when it lost nearly $110 million. And its losses this year have, so far, slowed. In the first six months of 2009, it lost $18 million.
Also, Avatar has been able to maintain a decent cash balance for its size. It stood at $182 million at the end of June. That's actually a slight increase from the $175 million it had at the end of 2008.
Still, that balance could erode quickly if the company loses other sources of capital. Its unsecured credit line has been impacted recently by the troubles of Franklin Bank, which was closed by the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending and the FDIC named receiver. Franklin Bank was one-fifth of the company's credit facility. On Friday, the FDIC shut Guaranty Bank, also in Texas, which had provided 25% of Avatar's credit line.