HORSHAM, PA-The deteriorating housing market has dealt Toll Brothers Inc. the first net loss in its 21 years as a public company. The locally based luxury homebuilder posted a loss of $81.8 million for its fiscal 2007 fourth quarter, compared with net income of $183.8 million in the same quarter of 2006.

The loss included $314.9 million of pretax write-downs on the value of its land. During a conference call, Joel Rassman, CFO, wouldn’t rule out further write-downs and, based on that possibility plus continuing uncertainty in the housing market, declined to provide a 2008 earnings guidance. He did say, however, that the company expected to deliver between 3,900 and 5,100 homes in the next fiscal year.

Fourth-quarter net signed contracts were $365.3 million, versus $706.3 million in the final fiscal quarter of 2006. Total revenues were nearly $1.2 billion, down from more than $1.8 billion in the same period a year ago. There were 417 cancellations during fourth quarter, which represents 38.9% of the contracts signed.

The company ended the quarter with $900 million in cash and more than $1.2 billion under its bank credit facility, which expires in 2011. Toll Brothers has resisted dropping prices on homes in its communities. Asked when it would start to price more aggressively, Robert Toll, chairman and CEO, said, “we are discounting at a much larger rate on specs that we’ve inherited due to cancellations. But, you can’t discount past your costs. We have cash, thank goodness, so we’re far away from that.”

Calling 2007 the most challenging of the company’s 40 years in business, he said, “this downturn may be our toughest test yet.” Although 1974 “was perhaps rougher,” he said, “the difficult times only lasted one year. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when this oversupply is absorbed. I believe those who wanted to buy, but didn’t, will kick themselves.”

Shares of TOL on the NYSE closed at $23.42 a share, up 13% following the conference call on Dec. 6. This compares with a 52-week low of $18 a share this Nov. 27 and a 52-week high of $35.64 a share this Feb. 2.

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