NEW YORK Feb 4 Fidelity National Financial Inc
(FNF.N), the largest U.S. title insurer, on Wednesday said it
cut 1,500 jobs in January, and posted a fourth-quarter loss as
the housing slump drove down home sales and refinancings.
The company nevertheless said demand for new business
soared in December, and in January grew more than 50 percent
from December's level, an increase that reflects lower
borrowing costs for customers as well as recent acquisitions.
The quarterly loss for the Jacksonville, Florida-based
company was $1.7 million, or 1 cent per share, compared with a
loss of $44.9 million, or 21 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue fell 21 percent to $1.02 billion.
Analysts on average had expected a loss of 2 cents per
share on revenue of $951 million, according to Reuters
Results were the first since Fidelity National on Dec. 22
bought three title insurers, including LandAmerica Financial
Group Inc's LFGRQ.PK Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co and
Lawyers Title Insurance Corp.
LandAmerica filed for bankruptcy protection in November
after Fidelity National withdrew an offer to buy the entire
company and assume more than $500 million of debt. Analysts
said buying the title businesses alone made more sense.
Fidelity National said it has cut 1,500 of the 5,500 jobs
it inherited from the acquisitions and also shut 125 offices.
While more cuts are possible, it said the largest have probably
Title insurance guarantees that a property owner has title
to a property and can legally transfer that title.
Fidelity National said title orders that closed in the
quarter fell 17 percent to 245,200. It said the number opened
fell 7 percent to 428,200, despite a 52 percent increase in
December from the prior December. Title and escrow premiums and
fees fell 22 percent to $903 million.
Shares of Fidelity National closed Tuesday at $15.99 on the
New York Stock Exchange. They closed last year at $17.75.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, editing by Gerald E.