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Ryland Group Inc. (NYSE:RYL)

Q2 2007 Earnings Call

July 26, 2007, 1:00 PM ET

Executives

Drew Mackintosh - VP of IR

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and CEO

Gordon A. Milne - EVP and CFO

David L. Fristoe - Sr. VP, Chief Accounting Officer and Controller

Analysts

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan

Yousuf Sood - Deutsche Bank

Robert Stevenson - Morgan Stanley

Johanna Chua - Citigroup

Stephen Kim - Citigroup

Alex Barron - Agency Trading Group

Susan Berliner - Bear Stearns

Daniel Oppenheim - Banc of America Securities

Carl Reichardt - Wachovia Securities

TRANSCRIPT SPONSOR
Wall Street Breakfast

Operator

Good day and welcome to the Ryland Group Second Quarter 2007 Earnings Release Conference. Just as a reminder today's conference is being recorded.

At this time, for opening remarks and introductions, I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Drew Mackintosh, Director of Investor Relations, please go ahead, sir.

Drew Mackintosh - Vice President of Investor Relations

Good morning and welcome to Ryland second quarter 2007 earnings conference call. The call is being transmitted live over the internet, and can be accessed through Ryland's Investor Relations section of the website at Ryland.com.

In a moment I will turning over the conference call, to Chad Dreier, Ryland's Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer. Also joining us today are Gordon Milne, Ryland's Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and Dave Fristoe, Ryland's Senior Vice President and Controller.

Before we begin, please be aware that certain statements in this conference call are forward-looking statements, based on assumptions and uncertainties that include the completion and profitability of sales.

The changes in economic conditions and interest rates, consumer confidence, and general economic business and competitive factors. These factors and others may cause actual results to differ from the statements made in this conference call.

With that out of the way I will now turn the call over to Chad Dreier.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Drew.. Good morning, and thanks for joining us. By now I assume, that all of you have seen the press release, which details the results of the quarter.

Earnings per share for the second quarter came in at a loss of $1.25 per share. Results for the period include free tax land impairment charges, option deposit and feasibility cost write-offs of $147 million. Excluding these charges, earning would be a gain of $0.80 per share.

Consolidated revenues in the second quarter of 2007 were $740 million, compared to $1.2 billion in the second quarter of last year. Revenues for the home building segment were $723 million, with land sales contributing just $3 million, to that figure. We closed 2,461 units in the quarter. A 35% decline, compared to the second quarter of 2006. The average closing price for these homes was $292,000, a 1% decrease from the prior year.

Gross profit margins from home sales prior to inventory valuation adjustments, were 19%. Including the charges, gross profit margins averaged negative 1.3%.

Selling general administrative expenses as percentage of home building revenue were 11.5%. Compared to 10.1% for the same period of last year. The increase was mainly due to higher marketing expenses. Revenues from options and upgrades selected by our home buyers, accounted for 14.1% of total home building revenue. Compared to 11% last year.

Net sales for the second quarter came in at 2,521 compared to 3,023 in the second quarter of 2006. The 17% decline represents the smallest year-over-year decline, since the fourth quarter of 2005. Sales were down the most, in the Texas region, followed by the Southeast, and the North regions.

Sales were actually up 7% in the West. The sales trends improved, as the quarter progressed, although I'm hesitant to read too much into this, as the selling environment continues to be challenging across the country. The cancellation rate ticked up to 34% this quarter, after improving to 28% in the first quarter of this year.

High levels of new and existing home inventory make it tough to keep buyers in back log. The standing inventory makes it harder for our buyers to sell their house, and harder for us to change the negative psychology of buying a home. Fortunately, we believe that some builders have slowed the pace a third, so as not to add to the problem. Eventually the psychology will change. We just haven't seen it yet.

Turning to our financial services segment, the mortgage company contributed $10 million in pre-tax earnings in the quarter. The credit quality breakdown for the loans we originated in the second quarter of 2007, is at follows. Prime 73%. Alt-A 10%. VA and FHA 17%. Sub prime was less than 1%.

Our capture rate for this quarter was 80%. Of these loans 95% were originated using the Ryland mortgage loan program, and 5% brokered out to other lenders. The average FICO score for our loans, was 714. The cumulative loan to value ratio was 90%.

Interest only loans accounted for 17% of the total, compared to 23% last year. Adjustable rate loans made up only 13% of the total, compared to 24% last year. All of these credit statistics are in line with or slightly better than our historic leverage, and our mortgage company has done an excellent job working with Countrywide, and responding to the changes in the mortgage market.

Moving to the balance sheet, we ended the second quarter with a debt to total capital ratio of 42%. Because we continue to build homes at a profit, our interest coverage was over six times on a rolling twelve month basis, well over the required two times on our bank line.

At June 30, we controlled 54,283 lots, with a break down of 57% owned and 43% optioned. Total lot count is down 10% since the end of March, and down 28% from the peak. Our inventory levels on a dollar basis stood at $2.36 billion, which is a 14% decline, versus the second quarter of 2006. And at the end of quarter we had 4,953 homes in backlog.

As I mentioned earlier, we took a pre-tax impairment charge… I'm sorry, let me restate. We took a pre-tax charge of $147 million in the quarter, $127 million in land impairments, and $20 million in option deposit write-offs. The hits were taken in Arizona, Nevada, Northern and Southern California, and Florida.

Continued sluggish sales in these markets led to another round of discounting, which compelled us to take the impairments. We are disappointed in the magnitude of the charges, but it was a necessary step, given the price cuts we have seen in these areas. Spec home reduction continues to be a focus for us.

We have continue-- we have successfully reduced the amount of money tied up in start and unsold homes, by $132 million since our spec count peaked, at the end of third quarter of 2006. While the total number of startup homes without a contract rose slightly, from the first quarter, to 1,418, the number of completed and unsold homes, declined 24%.

We hope to get our finished spec count down even further as the year progresses. As always, we continue to take a balanced approach to our capital allocation.

In June we announced we will redeem $75 million of our outstanding 5 3/8 senior notes due next year, we also bought back shares 370,000 shares in the second quarter, at a cost of $16 million. Year to date, we are have repurchased 1,265,000 shares, we still expect it to end the year with a 40% debt to cap ratio.

In conclusion, the housing market has not gotten any better since our last quarterly report. And in some areas the fundamentals got worse, as evidenced by the impairment charges we took in the quarter. I am pleased, that we are able to report a healthy gross margin of 19%, prior to inventory valuation adjustments.

Our goal for the rest of the year, is to continue to sell homes at a profit, and further reduce our inventory levels, thereby generating cash, and sustaining our investment great balance sheet. This concludes the prepared remarks, and now we'd be happy to answer any questions.

Question and Answer

Operator

[Operator Instructions]

And we will take our first question from Michael Rehaut from JP Morgan.

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan

Thanks. Good morning or good afternoon.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

How are you?

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan

Depending on the coast. Good. How are you?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Pretty good.

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan

Just, first question, you mentioned that the trends improved during the quarter. Other builders have said it, they haven't improved, or even, worsened to some extent. I was wondering if you could break down, perhaps, where you saw the improvement.

And if you think that given that different builders are at different points of a becoming more or different point of pressure, in terms of pricing and things of that nature, that perhaps the markets that you saw a little bit of an improvement, might have been doing to timing of pricing strategies, where you are catching up or getting more aggressive.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

First as I said in the comments, I wouldn't read anything into what we thought the trend-- We just happened to have a better June this year, than we had last year. But I think that's mostly because last year, was really awful. And as I said in the comments, our sales were up in the West.

So I mean, the only thing I could read into that, is that we really, had a really lousy, year last year in Vegas, and Phoenix, and California. So, the fact that we had hardly any sales there last year, and we had a couple more this year, I don't think is statistically significant, and it's like I said, I don't know that I would-- I wouldn't say the market is better.

With respect to the other builders, I mean, I think that's just a matter of if company X has Y projects in Phoenix, and we have X, and we discounted sooner or later, I think that's just kind of a community deal with a builder by builder deal. I wouldn't be able to hypothesize that one builder is better, or another, in that scenario.

So I really can't give you a very good answer on that.

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan

Thanks. Thanks, Chad. And second question, in terms of the assumptions behind the impairments, one of your major competitors mentioned, that behind their assumptions for impairments, of lend, that they're actually modeling further price erosion in, which does make sense, given that inventory levels are still so elevated.

Could you tell us what assumptions are going on beyond your impairment analysis, in terms of are you holding-- assuming prices stay where they are? Or absorptions stay where they are, et cetera. Or are you taking things at a more bearish view going forward?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

That's not as simple a question as it sounds. First of all, we really analyze every single community independently, without respect to anything else. And I would tell you, we go through the computation, and that's really

David L. Fristoe - Senior Vice President, Chief Accounting Officer and Controller

But I would tell you, we end up writing it to a margin that we think can work and the absorptions vary by community. We might put two, or four-- and two in one community, and four in another.

I would tell you, we basically do not, write it down, expecting more erosion. I would tell you from a marketing point of view, we would know in more difficult markets that we had to have more incentives, than we would have had in the past. I mean, when you put all those things together, you get a pretty good idea where you are at.

Operator

We will now take a question from Yousuf Sood [ph] with Deutsche Bank.

Yousuf Sood - Deutsche Bank

Thanks.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi.

Yousuf Sood - Deutsche Bank

So first question, also following up on your relative order strength compared to some of your peers, and compared to last quarter. Last quarter, Chad, you had talked about, how in the past you might have waited out the market in terms of pricing, but that, the downturn had gone on long enough, that you were adjusting your prices as well. Is that something that's continued, and might have contributed, to the relative order strength.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

You know, I don't know that's a direct connection. I mean, I think we look at every community every week and sort of say, hey, if we can do "X" or "Y", we do that. I still think the order strength is not that this quarter, or this month was stronger. I think it was that last year, or last comparable period was weaker.

Yousuf Sood - Deutsche Bank

But you have continued the price reductions?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, our average price was I think, went from 295 to 292. I think that's with a we said was the 1%. So, I would call that a essentially flat. I think it goes back to, in Phoenix, we probably have more price reductions than we do, in Chicago, or Baltimore, or something like that.

I think the macro, and the company toll, is harder to deal with, than like Phoenix, or Tampa, or something like that.

Yousuf Sood - Deutsche Bank

So, thinking about some of the price reductions in community level, and some of the more difficult markets, I imagine they are well into list price reduction mode now. How do you handle that, within a community, in terms of backlog, that's been sold at a higher price? Do you try to phase it in between phases, I imagine it's not possible to do that. So how do you manage it relative to the backlog?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

I have to tell you, I still think we do more incentives, than we do price discounts. So that, we would try to hold that, to use your phrase, the list price as long as we could. And as we opened a new phase, or a new community, that you would see a different price reduction.

I mean, I think we work pretty hard at trying to keep our backlog in, and incentives seem to deal with that easier than, to use your words, list price discounts.

Operator

And we will now take a question from Rob Stevenson with Morgan Stanley.

Robert Stevenson - Morgan Stanley

Just a quick follow-up there, and I may have missed it in the prepared comments, but did you indicate what your discounts were overall?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

10% to 11%.

Robert Stevenson - Morgan Stanley

Okay. And then in terms of, when you are looking at your can rate, do you have a sense as to, during this recent quarter, what percentage of the can rate came from people, who couldn't qualify for a mortgage, and whether or not they might have been able to qualify, three or six months ago?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

No, because I think we do a pretty good-- I won't say great, but we think we do a pretty good job of not writing a contract until we know, Mr. or Mrs. Home Buyer, can qualify.

I don't think we have that many home buyers, who we write a contract for, and they're in backlog, and then to use your phrase, tighten-- standards tighten, or something like that, and then they can't get a loan. I wouldn't think we have much of that.

Robert Stevenson - Morgan Stanley

Okay, thanks.

Operator

And we will take a question from Stephen Kim with Citigroup.

Johanna Chua - Citigroup

Hi, this is Johanna Chua for Stephen Kim. Can you give me the breakout of the cash flow statement. Cash flow from operations investing, and financing if you have that.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, that's a long question. I will let Gordon do that.

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

For the six months?

Johanna Chua - Citigroup

Yeah.

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

For the six months from operations, minus $126 million. $21million minus from, cash flow from vesting activities. And positive $17 million from, financing activities.

Johanna Chua - Citigroup

Great. Thank you.

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

In the second quarter we were positive on most of those. And the first quarter because of working capital, gets reduced quite a bit, after the year end, we were negative.

Johanna Chua - Citigroup

Okay. Thanks.

Stephen Kim - Citigroup

And then also Gordon--

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes.

Stephen Kim - Citigroup

It's Steve Kim, sorry about that. Can you comment where you anticipate your inventory will reside by year end? I guess what I'm thinking of-- I'm not looking for a precise number, but we saw in this quarter a sequential increase in homes under construction, although basically flat. And a slight reduction in land, and development.

But I would pose most of that, was from the write-offs. I'm trying to figure out as we plot the trajectory of 3Q and into 4Q, should we expect inventories, sons write-downs, being basically flat again in 3Q, and then down in 4Q, or could we start to see some reduction in 3Q?

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I think you will see reduction in both quarters, Stephen. More in the fourth quarter than the third. But both quarters.

Stephen Kim - Citigroup

Okay, good. Great. Thank you.

Operator

And we will now take a question from Alex Barron with Agency Trading Group.

Alex Barron - Citigroup

Thanks. Good morning, guys. I wanted to ask you if you have a breakdown of the inventory impairments by region, either in dollars, or number of communities.

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I'll give it to you by division. $42 million in Northern California. $40 million in Las Vegas. $19 million in Phoenix. $13 million in Florida. And $12 million in Southern California.

Alex Barron - Citigroup

So how many total communities got impaired this quarter?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

19.

Alex Barron - Citigroup

19. And as a percentage of your, both your Northern and Southern California, how many have you impaired thus far since beginning in '06?

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hold on a second.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Northern California is 39%. Southern California is 96%.

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Did you get that? Did you hear that Alex?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Hello?

Operator

Actually, we will now move on, and take a question from Susan Berliner with Bear Stearns.

Susan Berliner - Bear Stearns

I had two questions. One was, can you tell me what was outstanding on the bank line at quarter end?

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

$75 million.

Susan Berliner - Bear Stearns

And my second one was, I think you said incentives were 10% to 11%. And I seem to recall the same number in 1Q. Am I mistaken?

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

No, you are correct.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

No, you are right on.

Susan Berliner - Bear Stearns

Thank you.

Operator

And we will take a question from Dan Oppenheim with Banc of America.

Daniel Oppenheim - Banc of America Securities

Thanks very much. Was wondering if you can just talk a little bit about, your thoughts, and sort of the, how you are running the business in terms of orders. You were talking before how you have… do you think more in terms of generating orders based on sales per community, or also some component driven by, the backlog that you have, I guess thinking about the order growth that you had in the West, of almost 7%.

Your backlog was down very substantially year-over-year. Just prior to this quarter. If we think about the Southeast going forward, the backlog is now down, should we expect to see sort of another focus on orders there, potentially expensive pricing?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Boy, you know, I have to think about that for ten seconds. Basically in the West, we got pretty aggressive on stopping last year. So like I say, we just-- like as I recall, and Gordon or Dave can correct me, but we had hardly anything in Vegas. The fact that we have a couple this year, I don't know that there is a specific strategy applied to that, other than hey, you know, we got our prices down, and I think we are ahead of the game there in Vegas.

You know, in Florida, I would have to really think about… Florida for us is really four markets. It's Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers. And Jacksonville, and Orlando are still doing pretty well. At Fort Myers, and Tampa, Fort Myers is obviously, a very troubled market. And Tampa, is sort of, in the middle of Orlando and Fort Myers, both geographically and business-wise.

I'd have to really sit down and think about what that would portend for next year. I haven't done that.

Daniel Oppenheim - Banc of America Securities

Okay. Thanks.

Operator

And we will now take a question from Carl Reichardt, with Wachovia Securities.

Carl Reichardt - Wachovia Securities

Good morning, Chad, guys, how are you?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey.

Carl Reichardt - Wachovia Securities

Chad, historically you guys have kind of gone, 33% entry level, 33% first time, 33% second time move up. Is that mix likely to change, as you're looking forward here to opening new communities that are replacing communities you are closing out of?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I would say, I mean, I wouldn't want to be held to this without a chance to review it, as we do our planning. But I would say it's probably closer to 40%. I mean 20% entry level. 40% first time and 40% second time.

I mean, we were probably doing less, what you would call, true entry level. It's just harder, and the numbers don't work. So I would think that is shifted a little bit into first, and second time, move up.

Carl Reichardt - Wachovia Securities

Okay. And then follow-up, just in terms of thinking about those markets where we might be running relatively light land, compared where you were, land prices haven't come in, so you're trying to decide whether or not you want to reinvest, and keep your business open in a market you like long term.

How do you think about that decision process right now? If land prices don't come in, you raise your hurdle rates. So what do you do, do you exit, come back in two years, when it's better. Or do you buy land, hold your nose, take lower returns, and keep your business open?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

First of all, we have not changed our hurdle rates. And so if you believe that prices are lower, and absorptions are less, you just can't do a deal. I would say, with, I will let Gordon kick me, if I'm wrong. I don't think we bought a piece of land in California, in 12, to 18, to 24 months. The hurdle rates aren't going to get there, and you just can't believe it.

On the other hand, Baltimore, I think is one of the strongest countries, in the market. And we are still doing deals there, and actually last week we approved a couple, because I think the markets there, and the margins are there, and the hurdle rates are there. That's really a market, by market deal.

So I would just say basically, we haven't changed our policy or strategy at all in that area.

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

We haven't run out of land anywhere. The slow absorptions and the reduced land count is kind of evening things out. Our land supply gone from a four year land supply, to a five year land supply, even though we have 25% less lots.

Operator

And we will take a follow-up question from Alex Baron.

Alex Barron - Agency Trading Group

Thanks, guy. I wanted to ask you about, when you have like a sales event, like I think you guys had one at the beginning of July, so, is the idea to reduce pricing on just a few inventory homes? Or is that basically the new pricing for all homes? When does that get booked?

Is that something is that included in second quarter, or something that would be included in third quarter?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

First of all, I'm not exactly 100% sure, what you refer to by a sales event in July. But hypothetically, if we had something like that, where we advertised five homes for sale at $50,000 off, or something like that, generally, that is an inventory house or spec house, that is what we would call finished, which we would define over 120 days completed. And in that case, and I will defer to Dave, but first of all that would be third quarter event, unless I guess you said, it was so bad that it affected margins of backlog, which I don't know that it would, or could. But by and large, the way you described it, that would be a third quarter event.

Alex Barron - Agency Trading Group

And how much --

David L. Fristoe - Senior Vice President, Chief Accounting Officer and Controller

That's correct.

Alex Barron - Agency Trading Group

My other question is, how much are you still doing 100% financing, if at all? Can you quantify that?

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I don't think we have the numbers. It's very limited now, to people with very high credit scores. I don't have the numbers with me. If you call back later, we could give you the number. But I'm sure it's very small now.

Alex Barron - Agency Trading Group

Okay, and if any, would that be your own mortgage company? Or you have some outsource deal?

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Well, it'd all be through Countrywide. And every mortgage company is really limited on what they can do on 100% financing now. I'm sure it's been tightened up a lot, the last three or four months. It wouldn't be very much left, except, if you had a very high credit score, I think it's still possible. Again, we can give you the number, but I'm sure it's very small.

Alex Barron - Agency Trading Group

Okay, thanks a lot Gordon. Thanks, Chad.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay.

Operator

And we will now take a follow-up question from Michael Rehaut, with JP Morgan.

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan

Hi, thanks. I was just hoping to get, you're good enough to review the cash flow stats, on a total six months basis. Can you isolate the second quarter numbers, operations, investment, and investing in finance. And what your outlook is on a-- for the full year?

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Give us a minute to find the right sheet here.

Gordon A. Milne - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

For the full year, what we are looking at, is we made money from operations all year. So we plan on continuing to do that. Taking our inventory down. So we we're very comfortable we're going to have a positive cash flow for the year.

We don't want to give a number out, because we aren't giving guidance on earnings. But we think from both operations, and from reduction inventory will be positive. Dave will give you the numbers for this--

David L. Fristoe - Senior Vice President, Chief Accounting Officer and Controller

For the quarter it's about $27 million from operating positive. $10 million basically flat. $10 million down from negative, and flat from financing.

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan

I'm sorry what was investing?

David L. Fristoe - Senior Vice President, Chief Accounting Officer and Controller

$10 million negative.

Michael Rehaut - JP Morgan

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]

And gentlemen, that appears to be all the questions we have today.

R. Chad Dreier - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks. And I appreciate everybody's interest, and we will be back in three months. Everybody has a great summer.

Operator

This does conclude today's conference. Thank you for your attendance.

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Source: Ryland Group Q2 2007 Earnings Call Transcript

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