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Ryland earnings fall as sales stall

The stagnant new-home market strained Calabasas-based home builder Ryland Group Inc., which on Wednesday reported a first-quarter loss of $75.3 million as revenue dropped 36% compared with the same period a year ago.

Home sales were $259 million during the first three months of 2009, down from $399.6 million a year earlier.

The loss of $1.76 a share exceeded the average forecast loss of $1.21 expected by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Ryland released the results after the close of regular trading; company shares rose 99 cents, or 4.3%, to close at $24.04. Shares are down 29% from a high of $34.09 on May 5, 2008.

Company officials declined to comment, saying they would do so in a conference call with analysts today. Ryland builds homes in 16 states, including California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida -- the states experiencing the most foreclosures and sharpest home price declines in the housing downturn.

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The company’s relatively small size makes it a potential takeover or merger target, said Patrick S. Duffy, principal of MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors, a Los Angeles consultant to home builders. “They don’t have the same footprint as some of the bigger, stronger builders,” Duffy said.

Orders for the company’s homes fell to 1,347 units in the first quarter, a 37.6% decline compared with the same period a year ago.

The vast inventory of low-priced foreclosed homes for sale has hurt builders of new homes. Nationwide, sales of all new single-family homes were down 30.6% in March from a year ago, the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week.

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peter.hong@latimes.com


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