Meritage Homes Corp, a top 10 U.S. home builder, posted a surprise quarterly profit boosted by a tax benefit. Meritage's fourth-quarter net profit was $43.3 million compared with a net loss of $79.1 million a year ago.
The tax gain was triggered by a tax law change that allows it to claim a refund against earlier taxes paid, going back five years. Meritage sold non-strategic properties near the end of 2009 that the firm says were not needed to execute the firm's current business plan.
Other news from the firm was mixed:
- Meritage reported revenue of $285.8 million, down 28.5 percent from $399.6 million a year earlier.
- The number of homes closed during the quarter fell 19 percent to 1,202.
- Home closing revenue was down 28 percent to $280 million.
- Excluding impairments, gross margins on home closings climbed to 14.9 percent in the fourth quarter.
It expects to collect a $93 million tax refund in early 2010 as a result of carrying back 2009 losses to offset taxes paid previously.