SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., April 23, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Meritage Homes Corporation (NYSE: MTH), a leading U.S. homebuilder, reported first quarter results for the period ended March 31, 2019.

Summary Operating Results (unaudited)
(Dollars in thousands, except per share amounts)

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2019 2018 % Chg
Homes closed (units) 1,765  1,725  2%
Home closing revenue $698,650  $728,532  (4)%
Average sales price - closings $396  $422  (6)%
Home orders (units) 2,530  2,358  7%
Home order value $976,979  $962,796  1%
Average sales price - orders $386  $408  (5)%
Ending backlog (units) 3,198  3,508  (9)%
Ending backlog value $1,295,295  $1,482,205  (13)%
Average sales price - backlog $405  $423  (4)%
Earnings before income taxes $32,370  $48,884  (34)%
Net earnings $25,412  $43,874  (42)%
Diluted EPS $0.65  $1.07  (39)%

MANAGEMENT COMMENTS

“Home buying activity improved throughout the first quarter of 2019, led by affordable entry-level and move-up homes, as buyers responded positively to lower interest rates and targeted incentives," said Steven J. Hilton, chairman and chief executive officer of Meritage Homes. “We believe the demand we’ve seen so far in the spring selling season reflects sustained positive macroeconomic factors for the housing industry.

“Meritage continues to benefit from our strategic focus on the entry-level and first move-up markets, which together represented nearly 90% of our first quarter 2019 orders, driven by growing demand for more affordable homes to meet the needs of Millennials and Baby Boomers. Our first quarter orders increased 7% year-over-year and matched our first quarter 2018 six-year high absorptions pace of 9.5 orders per average community.

“We also closed more homes in the first quarter of 2019 than we did last year, despite entering the year with 15% fewer homes in backlog than we had at the beginning of 2018,” Mr. Hilton added. “We achieved those results primarily due to our strategic decision to have more spec homes ready to sell and close quickly to meet the demands of home buyers. More than two-thirds of our first quarter 2019 closings were from previously started spec homes, up from a little more than half of our closings from spec homes in the first quarter of 2018. Most of those came from our entry-level LiVE.NOW.® communities, but they also included move-up homes in inventory that we marketed with targeted incentives, especially in slower-selling communities that we are looking to close out quickly."

He continued, “As expected, our average sales price (ASP) continued to come down as our product mix shifts further toward entry-level and affordable first move-up homes. That reduction in ASP, combined with the incentives that helped drive our order growth during the quarter, resulted in reduced home closing revenue and gross margin compared to the first quarter of 2018. However, we expect our higher backlog conversion and simplified product offerings will help us gain leverage and drive further profitability as we move through the year.”

Mr. Hilton concluded, “We are encouraged by the outlook for interest rate stability and optimistic that the spring selling season will continue as it has begun in 2019, but remain cautious in projecting quarterly results due to choppiness in the market. We are currently projecting 2019 home closings and total home closing revenue of approximately 8,200-8,700 and $3.25-3.45 billion, respectively, for the full year. We are anticipating home closing gross margin to be around 18% for the year, which we estimate will translate to approximately $4.65-4.95 diluted earnings per share.”

FIRST QUARTER RESULTS

  • Net earnings of $25.4 million ($0.65 per diluted share) for the first quarter of 2019, compared to $43.9 million ($1.07 per diluted share) for the first quarter of 2018. The year-over-year reduction in earnings was due to a combination of slightly lower home closing revenue, home closing gross margin and resulting loss of overhead leverage, as well as an increase in interest expense. In addition, first quarter 2018 net earnings benefited from a favorable legal settlement of approximately $4.8 million and a lower tax rate.

  • Home closing revenue decreased 4% on a 2% increase in home closing volume and a 6% decrease in ASP over the first quarter of 2018. The lower ASP reflected the company’s strategic shift toward more affordable entry-level and first move-up homes, as well as incremental incentives offered in the fourth quarter of 2018 and first quarter of 2019. This was most evident in the West region, where home closing revenue was down 10% year-over-year on flat home closings and a 10% reduction in ASP, primarily driven by softness in California. Similarly, East region home closing revenue was up 1% on a 7% increase in closings and 6% decline in ASP. The Central region's first quarter of 2019 was consistent with the first quarter of 2018's closing volume and revenue.

  • Home closing gross profit declined 6% due to the 4% decline in home closing revenue and a 40 bps decrease in gross margin compared to the first quarter of 2018, which includes targeted incentives on slow-moving inventory or homes in communities with more competitive market conditions.

  • Selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) were 12.3% of first quarter 2019 home closing revenue, compared to 11.5% in the first quarter of 2018, due to higher brokerage commissions, severance expenses and accelerated equity compensation expense into the first quarter of 2019 due to changes in tax rules. The combined impact of these items increased SG&A for the first quarter of 2019 by approximately 50 bps over 2018. Additional expenses associated with 7% more average actively selling communities producing 4% less home closing revenue for the first quarter of 2019 resulted in a loss of leverage compared to 2018.

  • Other income decreased $4.3 million year-over-year, primarily due to a $4.8 million favorable settlement in the first quarter of 2018 from long-standing litigation related to a previous joint venture in Nevada.

  • Interest expense increased $3.9 million year-over-year, primarily due to less interest capitalized to assets under development on faster construction cycles and turnover of entry-level inventory.

  • First quarter effective tax rate was approximately 21% in 2019, compared to 10% in 2018, which benefited from $6.3 million of energy tax credits taken in 2018 on homes closed in 2017 that qualified for the credits. Those federal tax credits have not been renewed for homes closed in 2018 or 2019.

  • Total orders for the first quarter of 2019 increased 7% year-over-year, driven by a 7% increase in average active community count with an absorption pace consistent with the prior year’s first quarter. Central and East region orders grew 8% and 20%, respectively, while West region orders were 3% lower year-over-year due to a 24% decline in California, continuing a trend that began at the start of 2018 due to affordability constraints.

  • Partially offsetting the 7% increase in orders was a 5% decrease in ASP as the ratio of lower-priced entry-level homes increased to 45% in the first quarter of 2019 compared to 38% in the first quarter of 2018. As a result, the total value of first quarter orders increased slightly over 2018. The Central region was the only region that experienced an increase in orders ASP for the first quarter of 2019 over 2018.

BALANCE SHEET

  • Cash and cash equivalents at March 31, 2019 totaled $327.5 million, compared to $311.5 million at December 31, 2018, due to positive cash flow from operations. Real estate assets remained consistent at $2.7 billion.

  • Meritage ended the first quarter of 2019 with approximately 33,800 total lots owned or under control, compared to approximately 34,000 total lots at March 31, 2018. All of the lots added during the first quarter of 2019 were in communities planned for entry-level product.

  • Debt-to-capital ratios were 42.9% at March 31, 2019 and 43.2% at December 31, 2018, with net debt-to-capital ratios of 36.0% and 36.7%, respectively, remaining well within management’s target range for this key ratio.

CONFERENCE CALL

Management will host a conference call to discuss the results at 7:00 a.m. Arizona Time (10:00 a.m. Eastern Time) on Wednesday, April 24. The call will be webcast with an accompanying slideshow available on the "Investor Relations" page of the Company's web site at http://investors.meritagehomes.com. Telephone participants can avoid delays by pre-registering for the call using the following link to receive a special dial-in number and PIN.

Conference Call registration link: http://dpregister.com/10130498.

Telephone participants who are unable to pre-register may dial in to 1-866-226-4948 US toll free on the day of the call. International dial-in number is 1-412-902-4125 or 1-855-669-9657 toll free for Canada.

A replay of the call will be available beginning at approximately 1:00 p.m. ET on April 24 and extending through May 8, 2019, on the website noted above or by dialing 1-877-344-7529 US toll free, 1-412-317-0088 for international or 1-855-669-9658 toll free for Canada, and referencing conference number 10130498.


Meritage Homes Corporation and Subsidiaries
Consolidated Income Statements
(In thousands, except per share data)
(Unaudited)

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2019 2018 Change $ Change %
Homebuilding:       
 Home closing revenue$698,650  $728,532  $(29,882) (4)%
 Land closing revenue9,495  14,032  (4,537) (32)%
 Total closing revenue708,145  742,564  (34,419) (5)%
 Cost of home closings(582,188) (604,202) (22,014) (4)%
 Cost of land closings(9,129) (15,242) (6,113) (40)%
 Total cost of closings(591,317) (619,444) (28,127) (5)%
 Home closing gross profit116,462  124,330  (7,868) (6)%
 Land closing gross profit/(loss)366  (1,210) 1,576  130%
 Total closing gross profit116,828  123,120  (6,292) (5)%
Financial Services:       
 Revenue3,228  3,048  180  6%
 Expense(1,504) (1,484) 20  1%
 Earnings from financial services unconsolidated entities and other, net2,978  2,656  322  12%
 Financial services profit4,702  4,220  482  11%
Commissions and other sales costs(52,555) (52,752) (197) %
General and administrative expenses(33,566) (30,893) 2,673  9%
Interest expense(4,085) (136) 3,949  n/m 
Other income, net1,046  5,325  (4,279) (80)%
Earnings before income taxes32,370  48,884  (16,514) (34)%
Provision for income taxes(6,958) (5,010) 1,948  39%
Net earnings$25,412  $43,874  $(18,462) (42)%
        
Earnings per common share:       
 Basic    Change $ or shares Change %
 Earnings per common share$0.66  $1.08  $(0.42) (39)%
 Weighted average shares outstanding38,215  40,488  (2,273) (6)%
 Diluted       
 Earnings per common share$0.65  $1.07  $(0.42) (39)%
 Weighted average shares outstanding38,849  41,140  (2,291) (6)%



Meritage Homes Corporation and Subsidiaries
 Consolidated Balance Sheets
(In thousands)
(Unaudited)

  March 31, 2019 December 31, 2018
Assets:    
Cash and cash equivalents $327,499 $311,466
Other receivables 79,990 77,285
Real estate (1) 2,744,578 2,742,621
Deposits on real estate under option or contract 44,827 51,410
Investments in unconsolidated entities 15,661 17,480
Property and equipment, net 53,798 54,596
Deferred tax asset 25,939 26,465
Prepaids, other assets and goodwill 103,575 84,156
    Total assets $3,395,867 $3,365,479
Liabilities:    
Accounts payable $124,562 $128,169
Accrued liabilities 189,763 177,862
Home sale deposits 29,171 28,636
Loans payable and other borrowings 13,785 14,773
Senior notes, net 1,295,515 1,295,284
        Total liabilities 1,652,796 1,644,724
Stockholders' Equity:    
Preferred stock  
Common stock 383 381
Additional paid-in capital 498,683 501,781
Retained earnings 1,244,005 1,218,593
       Total stockholders’ equity 1,743,071 1,720,755
    Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity $3,395,867 $3,365,479
 

(1) Real estate – Allocated costs:
    
Homes under contract under construction $610,236 $480,143
Unsold homes, completed and under construction 555,712 644,717
Model homes 142,340 146,327
Finished home sites and home sites under development 1,436,290 1,471,434
        Total real estate $2,744,578 $2,742,621



Supplemental Information and Non-GAAP Financial Disclosures (Dollars in thousands – unaudited):

 Three Months Ended March 31,
 2019 2018
Depreciation and amortization$5,832  $5,866 
    
Summary of Capitalized Interest:   
Capitalized interest, beginning of period$88,454  $78,564 
Interest incurred21,443  20,869 
Interest expensed(4,085) (136)
Interest amortized to cost of home and land closings(16,398) (17,469)
Capitalized interest, end of period$89,414  $81,828 
    
 March 31, 2019 December 31, 2018
Notes payable and other borrowings$1,309,300  $1,310,057 
Stockholders' equity1,743,071  1,720,755 
Total capital$3,052,371  $3,030,812 
Debt-to-capital42.9% 43.2%
Notes payable and other borrowings$1,309,300  $1,310,057 
Less: cash and cash equivalents(327,499) (311,466)
Net debt$981,801  $998,591 
Stockholders’ equity1,743,071  1,720,755 
Total net capital$2,724,872  $2,719,346 
Net debt-to-capital36.0% 36.7%



Meritage Homes Corporation and Subsidiaries
Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows
(In thousands)
(Unaudited)

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2019 2018
Cash flows from operating activities:    
Net earnings $25,412  $43,874 
Adjustments to reconcile net earnings to net cash provided by/(used in) operating activities:    
Depreciation and amortization 5,832  5,866 
Stock-based compensation 5,861  5,209 
Equity in earnings from unconsolidated entities (2,174) (2,610)
Distribution of earnings from unconsolidated entities 3,996  3,244 
Other 1,827  2,301 
Changes in assets and liabilities:    
Increase in real estate (1,753) (87,732)
Decrease in deposits on real estate under option or contract 6,583  7,406 
(Increase)/decrease in other receivables, prepaids and other assets (1,654) 5,426 
Decrease in accounts payable and accrued liabilities (12,211) (15)
Increase/(decrease) in home sale deposits 535  (298)
Net cash provided by/(used in) operating activities 32,254  (17,329)
Cash flows from investing activities:    
Investments in unconsolidated entities (1,110)  
Purchases of property and equipment (5,240) (6,383)
Proceeds from sales of property and equipment 74  30 
Maturities/sales of investments and securities 566  1,018 
Payments to purchase investments and securities (566) (1,018)
Net cash used in investing activities (6,276) (6,353)
Cash flows from financing activities:    
Repayment of loans payable and other borrowings (988) (2,197)
Repayment of senior notes   (175,000)
Proceeds from issuance of senior notes   206,000 
Payment of debt issuance costs   (3,315)
Repurchase of shares (8,957)  
Net cash (used in)/provided by financing activities (9,945) 25,488 
Net increase in cash and cash equivalents 16,033  1,806 
Beginning cash and cash equivalents 311,466  170,746 
Ending cash and cash equivalents $327,499  $172,552 



Meritage Homes Corporation and Subsidiaries
Operating Data
(Dollars in thousands)
(Unaudited)

         
  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2019 2018
  Homes Value Homes Value
Homes Closed:        
Arizona 297  $98,454  275  $90,996 
California 132  85,837  231  159,391 
Colorado 169  88,675  94  54,386 
West Region 598  272,966  600  304,773 
Texas 543  191,606  542  191,745 
Central Region 543  191,606  542  191,745 
Florida 226  90,824  260  112,787 
Georgia 119  42,139  73  24,973 
North Carolina 156  56,541  128  50,673 
South Carolina 57  19,582  66  22,121 
Tennessee 66  24,992  56  21,460 
East Region 624  234,078  583  232,014 
Total 1,765  $698,650  1,725  $728,532 
         
Homes Ordered:        
Arizona 457  $145,398  459  $153,161 
California 167  108,474  219  160,398 
Colorado 204  105,248  175  97,095 
West Region 828  359,120  853  410,654 
Texas 870  306,265  809  279,503 
Central Region 870  306,265  809  279,503 
Florida 301  126,074  263  112,670 
Georgia 144  50,227  148  50,870 
North Carolina 230  82,985  157  61,485 
South Carolina 81  25,214  80  28,674 
Tennessee 76  27,094  48  18,940 
East Region 832  311,594  696  272,639 
Total 2,530  $976,979  2,358  $962,796 
         
Order Backlog:        
Arizona 503  $180,556  510  $181,979 
California 126  89,095  306  223,982 
Colorado 220  120,115  280  157,602 
West Region 849  389,766  1,096  563,563 
Texas 1,308  488,009  1,287  470,392 
Central Region 1,308  488,009  1,287  470,392 
Florida 447  200,182  449  196,470 
Georgia 148  54,483  226  76,358 
North Carolina 251  93,818  272  107,578 
South Carolina 113  37,987  113  42,027 
Tennessee 82  31,050  65  25,817 
East Region 1,041  417,520  1,125  448,250 
Total 3,198  $1,295,295  3,508  $1,482,205 



Meritage Homes Corporation and Subsidiaries
Operating Data
(Unaudited)

         
  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2019 2018
  Ending Average Ending Average
Active Communities:        
Arizona 34  37.0  37  37.5 
California 21  19.0  15  17.5 
Colorado 23  21.5  17  14.0 
West Region 78  77.5  69  69.0 
Texas 84  89.5  97  94.5 
Central Region 84  89.5  97  94.5 
Florida 32  31.5  28  28.0 
Georgia 19  20.5  21  20.0 
North Carolina 25  25.0  20  18.5 
South Carolina 11  11.5  12  12.5 
Tennessee 11  10.5  6  6.0 
East Region 98  99.0  87  85.0 
Total 260  266.0  253  248.5 

About Meritage Homes Corporation

Meritage Homes is the seventh-largest public homebuilder in the United States, based on homes closed in 2018. Meritage offers a variety of homes that are designed with a focus on first-time and first move-up buyers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Company has designed and built over 120,000 homes in its 33-year history, and has a reputation for its distinctive style, quality construction, and positive customer experience. Meritage is the industry leader in energy-efficient homebuilding and has received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year for Sustained Excellence Award every year since 2013 for innovation and industry leadership in energy efficient homebuilding.

For more information, visit www.meritagehomes.com.

The information included in this press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements include management's projected home closings, home closing revenue, home closing gross margin, overhead leverage and diluted earnings per share.

Such statements are based on the current beliefs and expectations of Company management, and current market conditions, which are subject to significant uncertainties and fluctuations. Actual results may differ from those set forth in the forward-looking statements. The Company makes no commitment, and disclaims any duty, to update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect future events or changes in these expectations, except as required by law. Meritage's business is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties. As a result of those risks and uncertainties, the Company's stock and note prices may fluctuate dramatically. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the following: changes in interest rates and the availability and pricing of residential mortgages; legislation related to tariffs; the availability and cost of finished lots and undeveloped land; shortages in the availability and cost of labor; the success of strategic initiatives; the ability of our potential buyers to sell their existing homes; inflation in the cost of materials used to develop communities and construct homes; the adverse effect of slow absorption rates; impairments of our real estate inventory; cancellation rates; competition; changes in tax laws that adversely impact us or our homebuyers; a change to the feasibility of projects under option or contract that could result in the write-down or write-off of earnest or option deposits; our potential exposure to and impacts from natural disasters or severe weather conditions; home warranty and construction defect claims; failures in health and safety performance; our success in prevailing on contested tax positions; our ability to obtain performance and surety bonds in connection with our development work; the loss of key personnel; failure to comply with laws and regulations; our limited geographic diversification; fluctuations in quarterly operating results; our level of indebtedness; our ability to obtain financing if our credit ratings are downgraded; our ability to successfully integrate acquired companies and achieve anticipated benefits from these acquisitions; our compliance with government regulations, the effect of legislative and other governmental actions, orders, policies or initiatives that impact housing, labor availability, construction, mortgage availability, our access to capital, the cost of capital or the economy in general, or other initiatives that seek to restrain growth of new housing construction or similar measures; legislation relating to energy and climate change; the replication of our energy-efficient technologies by our competitors; our exposure to information technology failures and security breach; negative publicity that affects our reputation and other factors identified in documents filed by the Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including those set forth in our Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018 under the caption "Risk Factors," which can be found on our website at www.investors.meritagehomes.com.

Contacts:Brent Anderson, VP Investor Relations
 (972) 580-6360 (office)
 investors@meritagehomes.com