Three months ago Pulte Homes CEO Richard Dugas set a lofty goal for the company--have $1 billion of cash on hand by the end of 2007. That, despite the fact that Pulte had only $101 million sitting in the bank on Sept. 30 of last year.
The company plans to open its earnings envelope after the market closes today, revealing if it managed to meet that challenge. Its quarterly earnings conference call is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. EST Thursday (Jan. 31.) During last quarter's conference call Dugas said a combination of cutting SG&A expenses as well as not buying land or developing new communities would help get the company to that goal.
With home sales taking a serious plunge in December by most reports, it's good he wasn't counting on selling houses to bring in the cash. Dugas predicted last fall that he wasn't expecting much improvement in cancellation rates, which were running about 44% for Pulte Homes and 35% in the Del Webb active-adult product.
Analysts do seem optimistic that fourth-quarter bloodletting at the behemoth builder will be less drastic than its third-quarter loss of $3.12 a share. A First Call consensus of analysts was calling for a 50-cents-a-share loss Wednesday (Jan. 30). It's not clear whether that estimate includes any land-related charges or tax deferrals that have caused the profits of Pulte as well as most other builders, into losses during the past year.
At the end of the company's Sept. 30 third quarter, Pulte would have posted a profit of 21 cents per share had it not been for $1.18 billion of land-related charges and goodwill impairments.
More are likely to have come in the fourth quarter. Banc of America analyst Daniel Oppenheim expects the company to report a loss of 68 cents per share, Thompson Financial reported. His estimate includes a charge of $250 million related to land write-downs. He also expects the company to write off a large portion of its $800 million in deferred tax assets.
Pulte, itself, offered guidance last fall that its earnings would be break-even to 10 cents a share for the last quarter of '07, not including any land related charges or impairments of goodwill.
Pulte also said last fall that it planned to mothball slow-selling communities rather than continue to discount drastically.
Pulte's stock at 3:18 Wednesday afternoon was trading down 1.35% at $14.65 a share as most of the builder stocks sank in the wake of the rate-cut announcement by the Federal Reserve.