Beazer home orders up, revenue down

In the fourth quarter Beazer saw a smaller decline in revenue quarter-over-quarter and an increase in new home orders year-over-year, both good signs in an uncertain housing market.

Total revenue for the Atlanta-based homebuilder declined 43 percent, to $376.3 million, from $649.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. In the third quarter the company saw revenue decline by 51 percent year-over-year.

New home orders increased more than 2 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter, with 1,012 homes, but closings were down 24 percent from the same period last year.

The cancellation rate improved to nearly 35 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 46 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The company’s backlog of homes decreased to 1,193 homes with a sales value of $280.8 million compared to 1,318 homes with a sales value of $318.4 million as of Sept. 30, 2008.

Ian J. McCarthy, Beazer’s chief executive, said he was pleased with the fourth quarter results considering the “difficult market conditions throughout fiscal 2009.” The company improved gross margins and ended the quarter with a “significant cash balance,” he said during Beazer's quarterly conference call.

Total cash and cash equivalents, as of Sept. 30, were $556.8 million, including restricted cash of $49.5 million, according to the company.

Before the end of the quarter, Beazer repurchased $269.3 million of senior notes for an aggregate purchase price of $189.5 million, resulting in a pre-tax gain on early extinguishment of debt of $75 million, McCarthy told listeners during the call.