Home builder The Ryland Group Inc. (NYSE:RYL) on Wednesday reported a net loss of $54.7 million for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, or $1.30 per share; builder MDC Holdings (NYSE:MDC) announced a net loss of $155.4 million for the third quarter, or $3.40 per share; and Pulte Homes (NYSE:PHM) had a net loss of $787.9 million, or $3.12 per share, for the quarter.

Wall Street analysts had expected losses of 88 cents per share for Ryland, losses of $1.46 per share for MDC, and losses of 80 cents per share for Pulte, according to Thomson Financial Network.

Ryland had net earnings for the same quarter last year of $87.9 million, or $1.97 per share. MDC had earnings of $48.7 million, or $1.06 per share, in 2006. And Pulte had net earnings of $191.5 million in third-quarter 2006, or 74 cents per share.

Ryland Third-Quarter Earnings

Ryland’s home-building segments had a pretax loss of $90 million in the third quarter, compared with pretax earnings of $141.3 million for third-quarter 2006, and the company attributed the loss to a decline in closings and the impact of pricing adjustments and inventory write-offs.

Home-building revenues fell 35.2 percent in the third quarter to $717.5 percent compared with $1.1 billion in revenues during third-quarter 2006, and closings dropped 32.3 percent year-over-year.

The average closing price fell from $291,000 in third-quarter 2006 to $284,000 in third-quarter 2007.

Home-building revenues for the third quarter of 2007 included $8.3 million from land sales, compared with $37.4 million from land sales for the third quarter of 2006, which contributed net gains of $294,000 and $7.3 million to pretax earnings in 2007 and 2006, respectively.

New orders fell 20.9 percent in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2006, to 1,876 units, and the dollar value of new orders declined 27 percent to $491.4 million in the third quarter, compared with $673.2 million in third-quarter 2006.

The company’s backlog fell 36.6 percent, from 6,835 units at the close of third-quarter 2006 to 4,334 units at the end of third-quarter 2007. The dollar value of the company’s backlog was $1.2 billion at the close of the third quarter, down 41.6 percent compared to the value of the backlog at the close of third-quarter 2006.

Corporate expenses were down 31.1 percent in third quarter 2007, dropping to $11.1 million compared to $16.1 million in the same quarter last year. “This decrease was primarily due to lower incentive compensation expense that resulted from declines in earnings and stock price,” the company reported.

The company’s stock price closed at $26.26 per share on Wednesday, up 77 cents compared to the previous day’s closing price. Ryland announced earnings after the market closed. The company’s stock price hit a four-year low at $20.19 per share on Sept. 27.

Ryland’s financial services segment, which includes mortgage, title, escrow and insurance services, reported pretax earnings of $6.8 million in the third quarter, down 52.3 percent compared with pretax earnings of $14.4 million in third-quarter 2006.

“This decline was primarily attributable to a 35.1 percent decrease in the number of mortgages originated due to a slowdown in the home-building market and to a decrease of 1 percent in average loan size,” Ryland reported.

The capture rate of mortgages originated for the company’s home-building customers was 77.7 percent for the third quarter of 2007, compared with 82.2 percent for the same period in 2006, the company also reported.

For the nine-month period ended Sept. 30, Ryland reported a net loss of $131.6 million, or $3.12 per diluted share, compared with earnings of $272.8 million, or $5.86 per diluted share, for the same period in 2006.

Based in Southern California, Ryland operates in 28 markets across the country, and has built about 270,000 homes and financed more than 230,000 mortgages in its 41-year history.

Net income for the third quarter of 2006 was $48.7 million, or $1.06 per diluted share, including pre-tax charges of $19.9 million for asset impairments and $7.3 million for write-offs of deposits and pre-acquisition costs.

MDC Third-Quarter Earnings

For builder MDC, total revenue for the third quarter was $686.7 million, compared with revenue of $1.08 billion for the same period in 2006.

The home-building loss before taxes for the quarter was $258 million, MDC reported, compared with income before taxes of $82.3 million in third-quarter 2006.

The company closed 1,963 homes in the third quarter, compared with 2,955 home closings during the same quarter last year. The average selling price of MDC-built homes was $331,700 in the quarter, down $23,900 compared to the same quarter last year.

Larry A. Mizel, MDC’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement that the company has generated $740 million in cash flow from operations in the past 12 months, including $130 million in this third quarter, “primarily as a result of significant reductions in our inventories of land, homes under construction and mortgage loans.”

Also, he reported that the company has sought to lower its overhead and increase efficiency during “these difficult times” by continuing “downsizing and realignment efforts, reducing the number of our home-building divisions to 17 from 27 at the beginning of 2006, and lowering our employee headcount by almost 40 percent during the same period.”

The company had $249 million in inventory impairments from about 7,000 lots in 132 subdivisions, according to the earnings report, which represents the bulk of the third-quarter loss.

The impairments primarily occurred in the company’s West home-building segment, with more than 75 percent applicable to subdivisions in Arizona, Nevada and California.

MDC received orders, net of cancellations, for 1,228 homes with an estimated sales value of $365 million during the 2007 third quarter, compared with net orders for 2,120 homes with an estimated sales value of $678 million during the same quarter last year.

MDC’s subsidiaries build homes under the Richmond American Homes brand. The company also provides mortgage financing, primarily for MDC home buyers, through its wholly owned subsidiary HomeAmerican Mortgage Corp.

MDC has operations in Colorado, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Maryland, Northern California, Northern Virginia, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Southern California, Tucson, Chicago, Philadelphia-Delaware Valley and West Florida.

Pulte Third-Quarter Earnings

Pulte reported that net new orders declined 37 percent in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2006, to 4,582 units. Home closings dropped 28 percent to 7,468 homes in the third quarter compared to the prior year’s quarter. And the average sales price per home fell 4 percent in the third quarter compared to the prior year’s quarter.

Consolidated revenues for the quarter were $2.5 billion, down 31 percent from third-quarter 2006 revenues of $3.6 billion.

“The operating environment continues to be challenged with elevated levels of new and resale home inventory, tightening of mortgage liquidity, and weak consumer sentiment for housing,” said Richard J. Dugas Jr. Pulte president and CEO, in a statement.

Pulte’s ending backlog of 12,042 homes as of Sept. 30 was valued at $4.1 billion compared with 16,375 homes valued at $5.8 billion at the end of last year’s third quarter.

The company’s financial services operations reported pre-tax income of $12.9 million for the third quarter 2007 compared with $21.4 million of pre- tax income for the prior year’s quarter.

For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Pulte Homes reported a $1.38 billion loss from continuing operations, or $5.48 per share, compared with income from continuing operations of $697.9 million, or $2.70 per share, for the same period last year.

Based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Pulte has operations in 51 markets and 26 states. Pulte also operates Pulte Mortgage LLC, a nationwide lending company.

Other Builder Earnings

Builder Centex Corp. on Tuesday reported a quarterly loss of $644 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with net earnings of $137.4 million for the same quarter last year.

Last month, KB Home reported a $35.6 million loss for the third quarter ended Aug. 31, compared with net earnings of $153.2 million for that quarter last year. And builder Lennar Corp. in September reported a $513.9 million quarterly loss, compared with net earnings of $206.7 million for the same quarter last year.

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