The Ryland Group, a large home-building corporation, reported record fourth-quarter consolidated net earnings of $108.7 million, or $2.17 per share, up from $86.1 million the previous year.

Southern California-based Ryland operates in 27 markets across the country. The company reported consolidated revenues of $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter, up 16.1 percent from $1.1 billion during the same quarter in 2003.

Ryland recorded record fourth-quarter new orders of 3,217, signifying a 27.1 percent over the prior year, and fourth-quarter closings of 4,654, up 5.8 percent.

The home-building segment reported record quarterly pretax earnings of $180.5 million, up 25.3 percent from $144.1 million reported in the fourth quarter 2003.

Home-building revenues rose $200 million, or 16.3 percent, to $1.2 billion. This was primarily due to a 10 percent increase in the average closing price of a home from $231,000 to $254,000. Home-building revenues included $37.9 million from land sales, compared to $33.5 million for the fourth quarter of 2003, which contributed net gains of $16.3 million and $8.4 million to pretax earnings in 2004 and 2003, respectively.

New orders of 3,217 for the fourth quarter of 2004 represented a 27.1 percent increase over the prior year.

The company operated in 339 active communities at the end of the quarter, up from 333 at the end of fourth quarter 2003. Ryland’s backlog increased to 7,620 outstanding contracts.

Ryland’s financial services segment, which includes Ryland Mortgage Co. and its title, escrow and insurance services, reported pretax earnings of $17.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2004, compared to $17.6 million for the same period last year.

Mortgage origination dollars increased 15.8 percent to $783.1 million in the fourth quarter. The capture rate of mortgages originated for home-building customers was 82.7 percent for the fourth quarter of 2004, down from 83.5 percent the prior year.

Ryland Group shares (NYSE: RYL) traded at $63.36 this morning.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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