"Accentuate the positive (a private equity cash infusion), eliminate the negative (a $248.2 million loss, or $3.82 a share)" was the theme song for Standard Pacific Homes' earnings call Thursday, July 31.
"It's been quite a while since we started out positively," CEO Jeffrey Peterson said brightly, kicking off the call. Not only will Standard Pacific's partnership with MatlinPatterson plump up the Irvine, Calif.-based company's rail thin cash position and pare down its fat debt, but the private equity firm--with $5 billion marked for investment in the home building realm--could also provide access to cash to expand in an upturn, according to Peterson.
"We can begin the transition from being a conservator to acquisitor and, at the right time, go from defense to offense," he said.
But, despite those hopes and dreams and the welcome cash infusion, Standard Pacific's second-quarter numbers still look pretty nightmarish. And, cautioned CFO Andrew Parnes, July's sales were worse.
The company's loss, three times what analysts predicted, took heavy hits from impairment and deferred tax asset charges as well as the costs of retiring some debt. But it wasn't helped much by falling home building revenues, which fell 38% over the same quarter in 2007. Home deliveries were down 19%. New orders fell 21%. And roughly one in every four buyers cancelled contracts.
Now that the company has shored up its financial position with the help of MatlinPatterson, it can "refocus on its core business and execute its strategic plan, including focusing on its relationships with customers, employees, vendors, and subcontractors," said Peterson.
Reassessing its investments in joint ventures, which has brought the company criticism from investors because it is difficult to assess their risk, has been part of that back-to-business strategy. The company unwound two California joint ventures during the second quarter, spending $53 million to buy out a partner's interest in one and assuming $47.7 million in project debt. In the other, two partners each bought about 50% of the venture's lots with Standard Pacific spending $30.3 million for its share.
Since the second quarter, Standard Pacific has left two other California joint ventures for $3.3 million.
Another challenge Standard Pacific, along with other builders, faces in upcoming months is replacing the seller-assisted down payment assistance programs that the new housing stimulus bill will eliminate. In the first half of 2008, roughly 12% of the company's buyers used the funds funneled from the builder through non-profits for home down payments.
In the question and answer portion of the call, Peterson spent some time talking about how he sees the partnership with MatlinPatterson unfolding.
"Their view is they are not going to be involved in the day-to-day business," he said. Instead, the investor, which will immediately net two seats on the board, will focus on company strategies and direction. And, Peterson intimated, that will include taking advantage of buying opportunities as the market bottoms.
That hasn't happened yet, he said.
"As we say, we have an open eye for things," Peterson said. "But at the present time, quite frankly, we are hard pressed to see the right economics at current market levels."