KB Home Falls After Homebuilder Reports Smaller Profit, Weaker Margins

KB Home (KBH), the Los Angeles-based homebuilder that targets first-time buyers, fell the most in six weeks after reporting a decline in quarterly profit and weaker gross margins.

Net income for the fourth quarter ended Nov. 30 dropped to $13.9 million, or 18 cents a share, from $17.4 million, or 23 cents, a year earlier, the company said in a statement today. The results included a $19.8 million gain related to the wind- down of a mortgage-banking joint venture and a $6.6 million gain from a loan guarantee.

“KB turned in very strong orders, ahead of our optimistic forecast, setting up the company for good growth in 2012,” Stephen East and Truman Patterson, analysts with New York-based Ticonderoga Securities LLC, wrote in a note to clients today. “Unfortunately, the rest of the results were disappointing as one-time gains accounted for nearly double the reported income.”

Gross margins fell short of the company’s earlier forecast. The housing gross margin, excluding inventory-related charges, was 15 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 17 percent in the previous three months. KB Home said in September that margins would improve in the fourth quarter. Net orders rose 38 percent to 1,494.

The builder dropped 6.7 percent to $7.22 at the close of trading in New York, the biggest decline since Nov. 9. The shares have lost 46 percent this year, compared with a 5.3 percent decline in the Standard & Poor’s 1500 Homebuilding Index.

Housing Demand

The company has cut costs and added communities in California and Texas, which the builder is betting will recover more quickly from the real estate slump. U.S. housing demand, weighed down by sluggish job growth, tight credit and a looming supply of foreclosures, is showing signs of improvement.

Housing starts rose 9.3 percent in November from the previous month to a 685,000 annual rate, the most since April 2010, the Commerce Department said yesterday. While multifamily construction accounted for much of the increase, single-family home starts jumped 2.3 percent, the most since June.

KB Home’s earnings beat the 3-cent average estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Revenue increased 6 percent from a year earlier to $479.9 million, and deliveries rose 4 percent to 1,995.

To contact the reporter on this story: Prashant Gopal in New York at pgopal2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Taub at dtaub@bloomberg.net.

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