Lennar Corp. (NYSE:LEN) Thursday morning reported a net loss of $811 million, or $5.12 per share, for its fiscal fourth quarter of 2008 ended Nov. 30. Analysts were expecting a loss of $1.61 per share.

The net loss for the fiscal year was $1.1 billion, or $7.00 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $1.9 billion, or $12.31 per diluted share, in 2007.

The quarterly results included a FAS 109 non-cash valuation allowance against deferred tax assets of $730.8 million during the three months ended November 30, 2008, the first such charge the company has taken. It also took charges of $221,099,000 on land valuation adjustments and write-offs of option deposits and pre-acquisition costs, goodwill and notes receivable, including joint ventures.

Revenues from home sales decreased 40% in the quarter to $1.2 billion, due primarily to a 34% decrease in the number of home deliveries to 4,484, excluding joint ventures, and a 10% decrease in the average sales price to $262,000. Sales incentives offered to homebuyers were $51,400 per home delivered in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to $58,800 per home delivered in the same period last year.

Including results from unconsolidated entities, new orders were down 46% to2,563 homes, with a cancellation rate of 32%. Backlog was down 60% to 1,599 homes with a dollar value of $456,270, down 67% from the end of last year's fiscal fourth quarter.

The company ended the quarter, and the fiscal year, with $1.1 billion in home building cash and no outstanding borrowings on its credit facility.Home building debt to total capital, net of homebuilding cash, was 35.7%, or 49.2% including cash. The company listed $2.545 billion in debt on its balance sheet as of Nov. 30. Lennar said it took in $230 million in cash after the quarter closed from a tax-loss carryback.

Lennar said it reduced its number of joint ventures during the quarter to 116, a 20% decrease, and its maximum recourse indebtedness related to the unconsolidated entities was $520 million, down by $1.2 billion, or 71%, since its peak November 30, 2006.

Gross margins on home sales were $137.4 million, or 11.6%, in the fourth quarter, including $63.4 million of SFAS 144 valuation adjustments. Selling, general and administrative expenses were reduced by $131.8 million, or 44%, in the quarter, compared to the same period last year, primarily due to the consolidation of divisions, which resulted in reductions in headcount, variable selling expense and fixed costs. As a percentage of revenues from home sales, SG&A improved to 14.1% in the fourth quarter of 2008, from 15.1% in the fourth quarter of 2007.

"Broad-based external pressures continued to negatively impact the housing market during the fourth quarter as rising unemployment, falling home prices, increased foreclosures, tighter credit and volatile equity markets further eroded consumer confidence and depressed home sales," said Stuart Miller, president and CEO. "As we enter fiscal 2009, we are hopeful the new administration will approve a major stimulus package to stimulate housing demand in order to stabilize housing values, which will reduce foreclosures and stabilize the financial markets, leading to restored consumer confidence."

Shares of Lennar were up sharply at market open to $11.30 per share but had settled back to $10.60, or up 3.4%, by midday. David Goldberg, home building analyst at UBS, saw the results as generally in line with his expecations. In a research note to investors, he pointed out that the company's loss of $1.04 per share minus a $101.3 million deferred profit on the termination of rights to buy certain assets of LandSource and the FAS 109 charges was roughly in line with his estimate, minus those items, of $0.92 per share. He added, "Impressively, the HB GM [home building gross margin] ex impairments was 17.2%, ~90bps above our forecast." Goldberg is maintaining a price target of $9 per share on Lennar, but he wrote, "We continue to believe LEN has the requisite liquidity to withstand the downturn."