It's been nearly three months since Standard Pacific Homes reported the tiniest sprouts of green hope emerging in the form of improved sales numbers and traffic quality.
On Thursday morning, when the company reports second quarter earnings, we'll know whether those seasonal spring-fed shoots have grown or withered in the face of what many expect to be a long, hot, dry summer and fall.
Analysts on average are predicting a loss of $0.15 a share for the quarter that ended in June, with estimates ranging from a $0.31 loss to a $0.01 profit. They were off last quarter, with a consensus predicting $0.30 a share loss and the company actually losing $0.21.
Investors are expecting positive news, based on the company's stock-price movement over the past 10 days. During that period, the stock has gone from the $1.90 level to $2.63, a 38% jump.
In May, CEO Ken Campbell said he was optimistic about improved sales numbers, including those that were occurring in early May. At the same time, he said they could be attributed to seasonality and pent-up demand from the seriously depressed last quarter of 2008. He said he didn't expect much improvement in the second half of 2009 given expected rising unemployment and other continuing national economic troubles.
The company is expected to report even more cuts in staff as it finishes the work of downsizing itself to meet the market. Last quarter, Campbell said it had about another 100 positions to cut to bring the head count close to a targeted level of 800. That would be well beyond half the staff the Irvine, Calif.-based builder had in 2007.
Standard Pacific has also been working to pare down the costs of construction through supply chain improvements and value engineering. Communities with future promise are being mothballed rather than sold. Markets where the company had no traction, such as Chicago and Jackonville, Fla., have been exited.
"If we can't make money, we'll just get smaller," Campbell said in May.
At the same time, Campbell has hinted the company might be in the market to raise money to improve its relatively high debt margin to give the company a "longer runway."
He's also looking for more cash from MatlinPatterson Global Advisors, an investor that pulled the company from the brink of bankruptcy last year, to invest in attractive land at the bottom of the market. But he suspected that wouldn't happen until 2010.