Dallas-based Centex Corporation (NYSE: CTX) late Tuesday afternoon reported a $975 million loss ($7.94 per diluted share) for its fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, 2007, due in part to a write down of $554 million in impairments and other land charges. The company also took a non-cash charge of $500 million related to deferred tax assets under FAS 109.

Centex said revenues for the quarter fell 30% from last year's fiscal third quarter to $1.91 billion. Closings were down 20% to 6,657 homes from the year-ago quarter; the average sales price declined 11% to $268,588. Home building reported an operating loss of $625 million for the quarter, after the $554 million ($2.79 per diluted share) in impairments and other land charges. Discounts and sales incentives as a percentage of housing revenue climbed 690 basis points to 15.2% in the quarter.

For the first nine months of fiscal 2008, revenues were $5.72 billion, 28% lower than the same period last year. The reported home building operating loss was $1.75 billion for the nine-month period this year versus earnings of $218 million in the same period last year. Gross margin in home building fell from 19.7% at the end of 2006's third quarter to 12.5% this year.

The company's financial services segment reported an operating loss of $60 million this quarter, down from earnings of $16 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2007, due principally to a $65 million increase in provisions for losses on its discontinued mortgage loan inventory. Centex Mortgage originated loans for 79% of Centex Homes' buyers during the third quarter, 100 basis points lower than last year's third quarter. The operating loss was $100 million for the nine-month period this year, down from earnings of $66 million in the same period last year.

The company said it reduced homebuilding SG&A expenses by 31% or $116 million, reduced inventory of unsold homes by 33% to 4,259, and reduced its cancellation rate 550 basis points to 33.0%

As of Dec. 31, the company was carrying $4.2 billion in debt, including financial services, down from $6.3 billion at the same time last year. Its net debt-to-capitalization ratio rose to 52.7% from 46.3% last year. Impairments and write-offs for the first nine months of fiscal 2008 totaled $1.72 billion, up from $606 million at this time in fiscal 2007.

"The housing market continues to correct and tighter mortgage underwriting standards are affecting home prices," said Tim Eller, Centex CEO. "Our strategy and execution remain consistent, even as we expect economic conditions to soften in the near term. In our fiscal third quarter, we generated about $100 million in cash flow from housing operations, lowered our G&A expenses and reduced our unsold inventory. Our focus continues to be on selling homes, generating cash and structuring for profitability."