U.S. markets open in 7 hours 30 minutes

Meritage Homes reports first quarter 2020 diluted EPS of $1.83

Net earnings increase 180% on 27% revenue growth and 20% gross margin

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., April 28, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Meritage Homes Corporation (MTH), a leading U.S. homebuilder, reported first quarter results for the period ended March 31, 2020.

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

    Three Months Ended March 31,
    2020   2019   % Chg
Homes closed (units)   2,316     1,765     31 %
Home closing revenue   $ 890,417     $ 698,650     27 %
Average sales price - closings   $ 384     $ 396     (3 )%
Home orders (units)   3,102     2,530     23 %
Home order value   $ 1,179,938     $ 976,979     21 %
Average sales price - orders   $ 380     $ 386     (2 )%
Ending backlog (units)   3,568     3,198     12 %
Ending backlog value   $ 1,388,517     $ 1,295,295     7 %
Average sales price - backlog   $ 389     $ 405     (4 )%
Earnings before income taxes   $ 86,833     $ 32,370     168 %
Net earnings   $ 71,152     $ 25,412     180 %
Diluted EPS   $ 1.83     $ 0.65     182 %
                       

MANAGEMENT COMMENTS

“We reported select preliminary operating results for the first quarter of 2020 on April 6, which reflected stronger-than anticipated market demand through early March, followed by significant declines through the end of the month, which have continued to deteriorate in April as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the U.S. and severely impacted the economy,” said Steven J. Hilton, chairman and chief executive officer of Meritage Homes.

“Though our net earnings for the first quarter more than doubled and every key operating metric showed significant year-over-year growth, we are expecting much weaker results for at least the next couple of quarters due to large parts of the economy being shut down, causing record job losses, fear and uncertainty about the future. Our hearts go out to all those impacted directly and indirectly.

“Nearly every aspect of our lives and business operations have changed in just the last couple of months. We have shifted our attention entirely to respond to the rapidly-changing conditions and plan for the challenges that lie ahead,” he continued. “Our primary concern is the health and well-being of our associates, customers, business partners and the communities we serve. We are following applicable CDC guidelines and the directions of government and public health agencies, and modifying our standards and protocols to safeguard all of our stakeholders as conditions change.

“Despite these challenges, our team members are using their experience, creativity and our leading technology to continue to serve our customers. Home buyers are utilizing our virtual capabilities to help them explore, tour, design, purchase, finance and in some cases even close on their new home without the need to ever meet in person if they so choose.”

He explained, “With shelter-in-place orders in effect across most of our markets, we are seeing customers either virtually or by appointment in our sales offices and Studio M design centers. Those we see tend to be serious buyers ready to commit to a new home purchase, so while our traffic has understandably decreased, our conversion rates on the traffic we do see have increased. 

“Using our 24/7 mortgage pre-approval tools on-line, our customers are able to move through the process of purchasing a home more quickly, and we can even process earnest money deposits on debit or credit cards remotely, through a secure emailable link. All of these tools are designed to make it more convenient and safer for our home buyers to work with us.”

He added, “Because homebuilding is currently recognized as an essential service in most locations, our construction crews have been working steadily, following social distancing guidelines, to ensure that we deliver completed homes on schedule for those who are eager to move into their new home.

“Meritage Homes is well positioned to continue operating through this difficult period, though no one knows how long it will last or how it will evolve. Our strategy has been to simplify our operations and focus on the most active homebuying groups -- entry-level and first move-up -- within many of the best markets in the country. It has been a successful strategy since we implemented it several years ago, and one we believe will continue to serve our customers, employees, partners and shareholders well into the future.

“We ended the first quarter with nearly $800 million in cash and over a billion dollars of total liquidity, and a low net debt-to-capital ratio of under 27%. After the early redemption of our 2020 senior notes last December, our earliest debt maturity is in 2022. We are tightly managing cash flows by deferring the acquisition and development of most new communities and have pulled back on all discretionary expenses. Additionally, we’re managing our spec-building strategy to continue to capture efficiencies while appropriately slowing our starts of new spec homes to reflect current sales volumes.”

Mr. Hilton concluded, “I am proud of our entire team for their tenacity, innovative thinking and genuine concern for our customers and communities, as well as each other. I am also confident in our management team’s ability to successfully steer the Company through these difficult times. Due to the lack of visibility at this time, we are withdrawing our previous guidance and will plan to provide future guidance at a more appropriate time.”

FIRST QUARTER RESULTS

  • Total orders for the first quarter of 2020 increased 23% year-over-year, driven by a 35% year-over-year increase in absorptions. Order trends during the quarter, compared to a year ago, were up 38% in January and 51% in February, but down 8% in March.

  • Absorptions were up 41% in the West and Central regions, and 20% in the East region, primarily due to strong demand for our entry-level homes. Community count declined sequentially to 241 at March 31, 2020, from 244 at December 31, 2019, and 260 at March 31, 2019.

  • Order cancellation rates were relatively flat at 13% for the first quarter, with an increase in March cancellations to 16% in 2020, compared to 12% in 2019. Absorptions have slowed and cancellation rates have increased as conditions have deteriorated since mid-March.

  • Entry-level orders grew to 61% of total orders for the first quarter of 2020, compared to 45% in the first quarter of 2019, and represented 51% of total active communities at March 31, 2020, compared to 36% a year earlier.  Orders from non-strategic communities made up just 6% of first quarter 2020 total orders, compared to 13% of first quarter 2019 orders.

  • Net earnings for the first quarter of 2020 totaled $71.2 million ($1.83 per diluted share), compared to $25.4 million ($0.65 per diluted share) for the first quarter of 2019. The 182% increase in diluted EPS reflected the combination of increases in home closing revenue, gross margins and greater overhead leverage, in addition to lower interest expense and income taxes in the first quarter of 2020.

  • The 27% increase in home closing revenue for the quarter reflected a 31% increase in home closing volume, which was partially offset by a 3% year-over-year reduction in ASP due to the shift in product mix toward lower-priced entry-level homes. The West region led with home closing revenue up 38% year-over-year, followed by a 34% increase in the Central region and 10% increase in the East region.

  • Home closing gross margin improved 330 bps to 20.0% from 16.7% a year ago, contributing to a 53% increase in total home closing gross profit over the prior year's first quarter.

  • Selling, general and administrative expenses totaled 10.7% of first quarter 2020 home closing revenue, compared to 12.3% in the first quarter of 2019. The year-over year improvement was primarily driven by greater leverage from higher home closing revenue and continuing cost controls in 2020, in addition to higher brokerage commissions and severance expenses in 2019, resulting from the tougher housing market conditions exiting 2018. 

  • Interest expense decreased $4.1 million year-over-year, reflecting a reduction in total interest incurred due to the December 2019 early redemption of $300 million 7.15% senior notes due in 2020. Nearly all interest incurred was capitalized to assets under development in the first quarter of 2020.

  • First quarter 2020 pre-tax margin increased 500 bps to 9.6% compared to 4.6% in 2019.

  • Effective income tax rates were 18.1% in the first quarter of 2020 and 21.5% in the first quarter of 2019. The tax rate in 2020 benefited from energy efficient homes credits from the enactment of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act on December 20, 2019, as well as a larger tax benefit from equity-based compensation for stock awards that vested in the first quarter of 2020.

BALANCE SHEET

  • Cash and cash equivalents at March 31, 2020 totaled $797.3 million, compared to $319.5 million at December 31, 2019, including $500 million borrowed against the Company’s $780 million Revolving Credit Facility to provide additional flexibility during this period of uncertainty.

  • Real estate assets were relatively flat at $2.8 billion on March 31, 2020, compared to $2.7 billion at year-end and  one year ago. As a result of market conditions being negatively impacted by the pending health crisis, the Company has significantly slowed investments in land acquisition and development, as well as spec inventory, to preserve cash. Meritage ended the first quarter of 2020 with approximately 41,500 total lots owned or under control, compared to approximately 33,800 total lots at March 31, 2019. Total inventory of spec homes at the end of the first quarter was 2,703 in 2020, compared to 2,205 in 2019.

  • Total debt-to-capital ratio increased to 43.3% at March 31, 2020 from 34.0% at December 31, 2019, reflecting  the $500 million of borrowings on the Credit Facility. Net debt-to-capital remained low at 26.6% at March 31, 2020, compared to 26.2% at year-end 2019.

  • The Company repurchased one million shares of stock for a total $60.8 million during the first quarter of 2020. Share repurchases have since been halted indefinitely.

CONFERENCE CALL

Management will host a conference call to discuss the results at 7:30 a.m. Arizona Time (10:30 a.m. Eastern Time) on Wednesday, April 29. The call will be webcast with an accompanying slideshow, both available on the "Investor Relations" page of the Company's web site at http://investors.meritagehomes.com.

For those unable to participate via the webcast, telephone participants can avoid delays by preregistering for the call using the following link to receive a special dial-in number and PIN. Conference Call registration link: http://services.incommconferencing.com/DiamondPassRegistration/register?confirmationNumber=13700933&linkSecurityString=b1845736e. The Participant Access Code is 0774497.

Telephone participants who are unable to preregister may dial in to 1-877-407-6951 US toll free on the day of the call. International dial-in number is 1-412-902-0046.

A replay of the call will be available beginning at approximately 12:00 p.m. ET on April 29 and extending through May 13, 2020, on the website noted above or by dialing 1-877-660-6853 US toll free, 1-201-612-7415 for international and referencing conference number 13700933.

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

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2020   2019   Change $   Change %
Homebuilding:              
Home closing revenue $ 890,417     $ 698,650     $ 191,767     27 %
Land closing revenue 10,596     9,495     1,101     12 %
Total closing revenue 901,013     708,145     192,868     27 %
Cost of home closings (712,057 )   (582,188 )   129,869     22 %
Cost of land closings (10,213 )   (9,129 )   1,084     12 %
Total cost of closings (722,270 )   (591,317 )   130,953     22 %
Home closing gross profit 178,360     116,462     61,898     53 %
Land closing gross loss 383     366     17     (5 )%
Total closing gross profit 178,743     116,828     61,915     53 %
Financial Services:              
Revenue 3,912     3,228     684     21 %
Expense (1,735 )   (1,504 )   231     15 %
Earnings from financial services unconsolidated entities and other, net 661     2,978     (2,317 )   (78 )%
Financial services profit 2,838     4,702     (1,864 )   (40 )%
Commissions and other sales costs (61,173 )   (52,555 )   8,618     16 %
General and administrative expenses (34,170 )   (33,566 )   604     2 %
Interest expense (16 )   (4,085 )   (4,069 )   (100 )%
Other income, net 611     1,046     (435 )   (42 )%
Earnings before income taxes 86,833     32,370     54,463     168 %
Provision for income taxes (15,681 )   (6,958 )   8,723     125 %
Net earnings $ 71,152     $ 25,412     $ 45,740     180 %
               
Earnings per common share:              
Basic         Change $ or shares   Change %
Earnings per common share $ 1.87     $ 0.66     $ 1.21     183 %
Weighted average shares outstanding 38,085     38,215     (130 )   %
Diluted              
Earnings per common share $ 1.83     $ 0.65     $ 1.18     182 %
Weighted average shares outstanding 38,817     38,849     (32 )   %

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

  March 31, 2020   December 31, 2019
Assets:      
Cash and cash equivalents $ 797,321     $ 319,466  
Other receivables 82,170     88,492  
Real estate (1) 2,789,790     2,744,361  
Deposits on real estate under option or contract 54,167     50,901  
Investments in unconsolidated entities 3,279     4,443  
Property and equipment, net 49,180     50,606  
Deferred tax asset 25,810     25,917  
Prepaids, other assets and goodwill 112,739     114,063  
Total assets $ 3,914,456     $ 3,398,249  
Liabilities:      
Accounts payable $ 163,060     $ 155,024  
Accrued liabilities 216,334     226,008  
Home sale deposits 26,102     24,246  
Loans payable and other borrowings 521,867     22,876  
Senior notes, net 996,327     996,105  
Total liabilities 1,923,690     1,424,259  
Stockholders' Equity:      
Preferred stock      
Common stock 376     382  
Additional paid-in capital 450,982     505,352  
Retained earnings 1,539,408     1,468,256  
Total stockholders’ equity 1,990,766     1,973,990  
Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity $ 3,914,456     $ 3,398,249  
       
(1) Real estate – Allocated costs:      
Homes under contract under construction $ 731,747     $ 564,762  
Unsold homes, completed and under construction 583,929     686,948  
Model homes 114,951     121,340  
Finished home sites and home sites under development 1,359,163     1,371,311  
Total real estate $ 2,789,790     $ 2,744,361  
               

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

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2020   2019
Depreciation and amortization $ 7,011     $ 5,832  
       
Summary of Capitalized Interest:      
Capitalized interest, beginning of period $ 82,014     $ 88,454  
Interest incurred 16,535     21,443  
Interest expensed (16 )   (4,085 )
Interest amortized to cost of home and land closings (20,371 )   (16,398 )
Capitalized interest, end of period $ 78,162     $ 89,414  
       
  March 31, 2020   December 31, 2019
Notes payable and other borrowings $ 1,518,194     $ 1,018,981  
Stockholders' equity 1,990,766     1,973,990  
Total capital $ 3,508,960     $ 2,992,971  
Debt-to-capital 43.3 %   34.0 %
       
Notes payable and other borrowings $ 1,518,194     $ 1,018,981  
Less: cash and cash equivalents (797,321 )   (319,466 )
Net debt $ 720,873     $ 699,515  
Stockholders’ equity 1,990,766     1,973,990  
Total net capital $ 2,711,639     $ 2,673,505  
Net debt-to-capital 26.6 %   26.2 %
           

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

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2020   2019
Cash flows from operating activities:      
Net earnings $ 71,152     $ 25,412  
Adjustments to reconcile net earnings to net cash provided by operating activities:      
Depreciation and amortization 7,011     5,832  
Stock-based compensation 6,437     5,861  
Equity in earnings from unconsolidated entities (684 )   (2,174 )
Distribution of earnings from unconsolidated entities 849     3,996  
Other 164     1,827  
Changes in assets and liabilities:      
Increase in real estate (45,207 )   (1,753 )
(Increase)/decrease in deposits on real estate under option or contract (3,266 )   6,583  
Decrease/(increase) in other receivables, prepaids and other assets 7,557     (1,654 )
Decrease in accounts payable and accrued liabilities (1,956 )   (12,211 )
Increase in home sale deposits 1,856     535  
Net cash provided by operating activities 43,913     32,254  
Cash flows from investing activities:      
Investments in unconsolidated entities (1 )   (1,110 )
Distributions of capital from unconsolidated entities 1,000      
Purchases of property and equipment (5,331 )   (5,240 )
Proceeds from sales of property and equipment 96     74  
Maturities/sales of investments and securities 83     566  
Payments to purchase investments and securities (83 )   (566 )
Net cash used in investing activities (4,236 )   (6,276 )
Cash flows from financing activities:      
Proceeds from Credit Facility, net 500,000      
Repayment of loans payable and other borrowings (1,009 )   (988 )
Repurchase of shares (60,813 )   (8,957 )
Net cash provided by/(used in) financing activities 438,178     (9,945 )
Net increase in cash and cash equivalents 477,855     16,033  
Beginning cash and cash equivalents 319,466     311,466  
Ending cash and cash equivalents $ 797,321     $ 327,499  
               

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

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2020   2019
  Homes   Value   Homes   Value
Homes Closed:              
Arizona 459     $ 151,244     297     $ 98,454  
California 208     134,802     132     85,837  
Colorado 186     91,684     169     88,675  
West Region 853     377,730     598     272,966  
Texas 774     255,909     543     191,606  
Central Region 774     255,909     543     191,606  
Florida 236     93,789     226     90,824  
Georgia 115     41,998     119     42,139  
North Carolina 222     79,417     156     56,541  
South Carolina 53     17,405     57     19,582  
Tennessee 63     24,169     66     24,992  
East Region 689     256,778     624     234,078  
Total 2,316     $ 890,417     1,765     $ 698,650  
               
Homes Ordered:              
Arizona 570     $ 183,371     457     $ 145,398  
California 352     224,930     167     108,474  
Colorado 199     98,466     204     105,248  
West Region 1,121     506,767     828     359,120  
Texas 1,059     342,990     870     306,265  
Central Region 1,059     342,990     870     306,265  
Florida 317     119,443     301     126,074  
Georgia 156     54,984     144     50,227  
North Carolina 287     101,255     230     82,985  
South Carolina 87     27,914     81     25,214  
Tennessee 75     26,585     76     27,094  
East Region 922     330,181     832     311,594  
Total 3,102     $ 1,179,938     2,530     $ 976,979  
               
Order Backlog:              
Arizona 622     $ 218,497     503     $ 180,556  
California 289     182,361     126     89,095  
Colorado 209     104,335     220     120,115  
West Region 1,120     505,193     849     389,766  
Texas 1,333     459,888     1,308     488,009  
Central Region 1,333     459,888     1,308     488,009  
Florida 452     189,193     447     200,182  
Georgia 174     62,777     148     54,483  
North Carolina 284     101,305     251     93,818  
South Carolina 105     34,963     113     37,987  
Tennessee 100     35,198     82     31,050  
East Region 1,115     423,436     1,041     417,520  
Total 3,568     $ 1,388,517     3,198     $ 1,295,295  
                           

Meritage Homes Corporation and Subsidiaries
Operating Data
(Unaudited)

  Three Months Ended March 31,
  2020   2019
  Ending   Average   Ending   Average
Active Communities:              
Arizona 33     32.0     34     37.0  
California 29     26.5     21     19.0  
Colorado 13     15.5     23     21.5  
West Region 75     74.0     78     77.5  
Texas 78     77.5     84     89.5  
Central Region 78     77.5     84     89.5  
Florida 34     33.5     32     31.5  
Georgia 15     16.5     19     20.5  
North Carolina 20     22.5     25     25.0  
South Carolina 7     8.0     11     11.5  
Tennessee 12     10.5     11     10.5  
East Region 88     91.0     98     99.0  
Total 241     242.5     260     266.0  
                       

About Meritage Homes Corporation
Meritage Homes is the seventh-largest public homebuilder in the United States, based on homes closed in 2019. 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 125,000 homes in its 35-year history, and has a reputation for its distinctive style, quality construction, and award-winning 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 the statements regarding current business conditions and the potential adverse impacts, as well as our response to, the COVID-19 pandemic.

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: adverse impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a recession in the U.S., the impact of legislation designed to provide economic relief from a recession, the inability of employees to work and of customers to visit our communities due to government movement restrictions or illness, disruptions in our supply chain, our inability to access capital markets due to lack of liquidity in the economy resulting from the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, inconsistencies or changes in the classification of homebuilding as an essential business and/or critical infrastructure, the availability of mortgages due to reactions by regulators, investors and lenders, the shutdown of or delay in governmental services (i.e. approvals, permits, inspections), and enhanced governmental regulation; the availability and cost of finished lots and undeveloped land; shortages in the availability and cost of labor; the success of our strategic initiatives to focus on the first- and second-move-up buyer; the ability of our potential buyers to sell their existing homes; changes in interest rates and the availability and pricing of residential mortgages; our exposure to information technology failures and security breaches; legislation related to tariffs; 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; 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, 2019 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