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Toll Brothers 2Q Loss Narrows On Lower Write-Downs, Improved Sales

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Toll Brothers Inc.'s (TOL) fiscal second-quarter loss narrowed amid sharply lower write-downs as the luxury home builder also reported sales and margin growth. The overall housing market has remained weak since the expiration of a federal tax credit last year, as well as an ample supply of foreclosures and jittery consumers. Toll Brothers had been a bright spot for the industry in the prior quarter, posting a surprise fiscal first-quarter profit amid higher prices and a low cancellation rate. Chief Executive Douglas C. Yearly Jr. said that the company continues to "see stability, and, in some cases, improvement," across its product lines and the company thinks some of its potential customers who had deferred home buying decisions because of concerns about the economy are starting to be drawn into the market by attractive pricing and lower interest rates. For the quarter ended April 30, Toll Brothers reported its loss narrowed to $20.8 million, or 12 cents a share, from $40.4 million, or 24 cents a share a year earlier. Excluding write-downs, earnings were $1 million, compared with a year earlier loss of $9.5 million. Revenue increased 2.7% to $319.7 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently forecast a loss of 4 cents on revenue of $322 million. Gross margin soared to 13.6% from 1.8%, aided by lower write-downs, as well as reduced incentives and close-outs of lower margin communities. Toll Brothers, one of the nation's largest builders, delivered 591 homes, a 9% increase from a year earlier. However, the average delivery price fell 7.7% to $541,000 from the last quarter. The cancellation rate, defined as cancellations divided by signed contracts, declined to 3.9% from 5.3% a year earlier. The company raised the low end of its fiscal-year deliveries projection by 100 and now expects between 2,300 and 2,800 homes and it lowered the high end of its average price estimate by $5,000, to a range of $540,000 to $560,000 per home. Shares closed Tuesday at $20.27 and were inactive premarket. -By Tess Stynes, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2481;

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