April 4, 2018 / 6:16 PM / 20 days ago

Lennar raises home sales forecast ahead of spring selling season

(Reuters) - Lennar Corp (LEN.N) on Wednesday signalled confidence in housing demand ahead of the crucial spring selling season by raising the number of homes it expects to sell in fiscal 2018, sending the No.2 U.S. homebuilder’s shares as much as 9.6 percent.

FILE PHOTO: Newly constructed houses built by Lennar Corp are pictured in Leucadia, California, U.S., March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Shares of other homebuilders, including D.R. Horton Inc (DHI.N), Toll Brothers Inc (TOL.N) and PulteGroup Inc (PHM.N), also rose 2-4 percent on a day when most U.S. stocks were lower on fears of U.S.-China trade war.

Lennar’s higher home sales forecast comes on the back of its acquisition of smaller rival CalAtlantic Group Inc in February. The homebuilder said it would sell 45,765 homes in fiscal 2018, compared with its previous forecast of 32,000-32,500 units.

The raised expectation follows a strong first quarter in which the company reported higher revenue and profit. “Lennar’s results point to the continuation of strong demand,” Edward Jones analyst Robin Diedrich said.

In a housing market with supply shortage and higher demand due to low unemployment and rising wages, the homebuilder expects average selling price of $400,000-$405,000 in fiscal 2018, up from $376,000 last year.

“The recently passed Federal Tax Act continues to add additional momentum to the economic landscape,” Chief Executive Officer Stuart Miller said on the earnings call.

While supply shortage due to higher raw material costs and shortage of labour is fuelling short-term demand for homes, it is hurting affordability.

That coupled with a lower limit on mortgage tax deduction under the new tax law and rising interest rates have raised concerns of a slowdown in the long-term demand.

    STRONG DEMAND BOOSTS Q1

    The Miami-based builder, which mainly sells single-family homes, said the number of homes it sold in the first quarter rose 24.1 percent, while average sales price increased 7.7 percent.

    Orders, a key indicator of future revenue for homebuilders, rose 30.4 percent to 8,456 homes in the quarter.

    Net income for Lennar rose to $136.2 million, or 53 cents per share, in the quarter ended Feb. 28, from $38.1 million, or 16 cents per share, a year earlier.

    Excluding these items, the company earned $1.11 a share.

    Revenue rose 27.5 percent to $2.98 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $2.65 billion.

    Lennar said it was exploring strategic options for its real estate investment arm, Rialto Capital Management, to focus on homebuilding.

    Lennar’s stock was up 8.5 percent at $61.92 in afternoon trading and is on course for its biggest percentage gain in more than six years.

    Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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