St. Joe Gains as Quarterly Loss Narrows on Lower Impairments

St. Joe Co., the Florida landholder that announced a management shakeup this week after its largest shareholder complained about wasteful spending, reported a narrower loss as it reduced charges for stalled projects.

The net loss was $2.7 million, or 3 cents a share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $58.7 million, or 64 cents, a year earlier, the Watersound, Florida-based company said in a statement yesterday. Pretax charges, which include impairment costs, fell to $10.7 million from $84 million.

St. Joe has recorded 11 straight quarterly losses after Florida’s real estate crash drove down property values. Revenue, which comes mostly from real estate sales, was unchanged in the fourth quarter at $37.1 million. That beat the estimate of Sheila McGrath, an analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods Inc. in New York, who projected $15.5 million.

The quarter had “a meaningful pick-up in residential activity,” McGrath wrote in a note to clients today. “This report, with liquidity preserved and residential pick-up, should be met with some relief.”

Revenue included $17.1 million for transfer of the title from a 2006 sale of land to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The company’s shares rose $1.07, or 4.3 percent, to $26.25 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock lost 9 percent in the previous two days after Chief Executive Officer Britt Greene and three directors resigned amid a clash with shareholder Bruce Berkowitz.

New Board

Berkowitz, whose Fairholme Capital Management LLC owns about 29 percent of St. Joe, had sought to oust the board after criticizing the company for its spending and corporate governance. He will become a director, along with Fairholme president Charles M. Fernandez, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist and Carnival Corp. Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank.

St. Joe plans to hire an executive search firm to find Greene’s replacement.

Greene’s severance package includes more than $4.3 million in cash and benefits plus 128,681 shares of stock and six years insurance coverage for potential lawsuits, the company said in a regulatory filing yesterday. He earned $2.8 million in 2009, when the company reported a loss of $130 million on revenue of $138 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company said yesterday that it will delay filing its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Companies with a market value of more than $700 million are required to file an annual report within 60 days of the fiscal year end, which for St. Joe was Dec. 31.

Originally a timber and paper company, St. Joe transitioned in the 1990s to a housing and resort developer, The company owns 574,000 acres (232,300 hectares) in northern Florida, about 70 percent of which is within 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

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