Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE:TOL) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE:TOL) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript December 7, 2022

Operator: Good morning, and welcome to the Toll Brothers Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. The company is planning to end the call at 9:30 when the market opens. During the Q&A, please limit yourself to one question and one follow up. Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Douglas Yearley, CEO. Please go ahead.

Douglas Yearley: Thank you, Jason. Good morning. Welcome, and thank you all for joining us. Before I begin, I ask you to read our statement on forward-looking information in our earnings release of last night and on our website. I caution you that many statements on this call are forward-looking based on assumptions about the economy, world events, housing and financial markets, interest rates, the availability of labor and materials, inflation and many other factors beyond our control that could significantly affect future results. With me today are Marty Connor, Chief Financial Officer; Rob Parahus, President and Chief Operating Officer; Fred Cooper, Senior VP of Finance and Investor Relations; Wendy Marlett, Chief Marketing Officer; and Gregg Ziegler, Senior VP and Treasurer.

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One person who is not with us today is Bob Toll. Bob passed away in early October at the age of 81 and this is the first time in the 56 years since Toll Brothers was founded back in 1967 that we look to a new year without him. About 500 of us gathered in November to honor Bob at our headquarters with thousands more watching on Zoom. The event was attended by national business and political leaders and by the first subcontractors who worked with Bob in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Friends from the Philadelphia area he had known since childhood attended, along with dozens of his family members. It was a fitting tribute to a one-of-a-kind leader and a man who helped shape this industry for decades. Although he is no longer with us, Toll Brothers will always be Bob's company.

We miss him very much. Turning to the business' hand. As Bob would insist, I'm pleased with our performance this year and extremely proud of the entire Toll Brothers team. In a year filled with supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, permitting delays, inflation, increasing mortgage rates and many other operational challenges, we delivered over 10,500 homes, the most in our history, and grew homebuilding revenues by over 15% to $9.7 billion. In the fourth quarter, we exceeded the midpoint of our deliveries and revenue guidance by 365 homes and $368 million, respectively, as we focus on converting our backlog as efficiently as possible. Our fourth quarter adjusted gross margin of 29%, a 310 basis point increase compared to last year, and we met our full year guidance of 27.5%, which was a 250 basis point improvement over fiscal 2021.

We reduced SG&A expense as a percentage of revenue by 110 basis points in the fourth quarter and 80 basis points for the full year. Before taxes, we earned $1.7 billion in fiscal 2022. Net income was a record $1.3 billion or $10.90 per share diluted resulting in a return on beginning equity of 24.3%, a 720 basis point increase over fiscal year 2021. At fiscal year-end, our book value per share stood at $54.79 and our net debt-to-capital ratio was 23.4%. While we achieved record results in fiscal 2022, we are faced with a challenging market, primarily due to the dramatic increase in mortgage rates since March. Our net signed contracts were down 60% in units and 56% in dollars in the fourth quarter with no discernible change nearly halfway through our first quarter of '23.

However, both web and foot traffic were only down 15% in Q4, suggesting that while many potential buyers are on the sidelines, they remain interested and may just be waiting for more clarity on the direction of mortgage rates and the overall economy before they transact. As we navigate this market, we are strategically balancing the delivery of our large high-margin backlog in fiscal year 2023 which is down just 7% in value from year-end 2021 with the generation of new sales for future deliveries. We continue to assess and adjust where necessary product offerings, price and incentive levels in each of our communities, taking into account local market dynamics, including elasticity of demand, the size of each community's backlog and the depth and quality of our landholdings in the market.

We intend to continue making appropriate adjustments as fiscal year 2023 progresses. Fortunately, because of the size of our backlog and the strength of our projected '23 earnings, we are able to look beyond the immediate slowdown in demand and focus on positioning the company for success in fiscal year 2024. Let me take a moment to discuss our projected '23 results. With the year-end backlog of nearly 8,100 homes valued at $8.9 billion, and with a midpoint of 8,500 homes projected to be delivered, fiscal '23 is setting up to be another solid high-margin year. Our backlog is supported by substantial non-refundable down-payments averaging about $83,000 per home. Through our build-to-order model, our buyers choose their specific home site, structural options and design studio finishes that match their lifestyles and their tastes.

As they customize their homes, they become both financially and emotionally invested. Additionally, with approximately 20% of our buyers paying all cash and the average LTV for those who obtained a mortgage at 71%, affordability is less of an issue for our buyers who tend to be wealthier with more disposable income. As a result, our backlog cancellation rate has been the lowest in the industry for decades, both through good and bad markets. During the fourth quarter, our cancellation rate as a percentage of backlog was 2.9%, just slightly above the average of 2.3% since 2010. I want to emphasize that the right metric to focus on for our business is cancellations as a percentage of backlog. Cancellations as a percentage of current quarter sales is simply not a meaningful -- as meaningful for a build-to-order company with a substantial backlog.

The question should always be, what percentage of the homes that have been sold and are being built or canceling? For us, that number has consistently been the lowest in the industry. Based on the strength of our backlog and including estimates for increased cancellations and incentivizing, we are projecting a fiscal 2023 adjusted gross margin of 27%. We expect to earn between $8 and $9 per share next year which would be our second best year ever and for our book value per share to increase to over $60 at fiscal year-end 2023. As I mentioned, because of our strong backlog and in an environment where potential buyers in many markets were on the sidelines, we chose not to aggressively chase the market down over the past six months. Also, because of our build-to-order model, we did not have to take dramatically lower prices to clear a large inventory of spec homes.

Instead, we have taken a more patient and balanced approach. In recent quarters, our delivery times for to-be-built homes has been extended in some cases, up to 16 months, which was not acceptable to many buyers. Additionally, building costs have been elevated due to the spike in inflation over the past two years. In that environment, it did not make sense to aggressively drop prices. Thankfully, quota delivery times have started to come down as we work through our backlog and as trades free up capacity in this slower market. We are also beginning to see some building costs come down beyond just lumber, which continues to steadily drop. The opportunity to build faster and at a lower cost may be here. Extended delivery times for our to-be-built homes have also resulted in the market for our spec homes being stronger than normal.

With elevated spec demand and as cycle times and costs come down, we plan to thoughtfully replenish our supply of specs in select markets to generate additional deliveries in late '23 and throughout 2024. Community count in '23 and '24 will also drive results. As part of our strategy, we are timing community openings to take advantage of better seasonal opportunities. We are positioning for the spring selling season, where there is typically more demand even in tougher times. We are going back to opening our new communities in perfect white glove condition with decorated model homes, reflecting the traditional way Toll has always done it. That did not occur as often during the market frenzy that followed the pandemic where we often opened early without roads or models.

During COVID, you could sell out of the back of a station wagon with success. That is no longer the case. As an industry, we probably will not have a better sense of the depth and length of this downturn until we are further into the spring selling season in March and April and hopefully, after the Federal Reserve's work is done. We recognize that if market conditions do not improve, we will need to be more aggressive with price reductions to rebuild our backlog and turn our inventory. And we'd rather be doing that when cycle times and building costs are coming down and when more of our backlog has delivered than three or six months ago. Turning to our land strategy. We continue to assess all transactions, whether they involve new land opportunities or takedowns under existing options, using our rigorous underwriting standards that are focused on both margins and returns.

Our existing attractive land portfolio allows us to be highly selective in this process and to walk away from or renegotiate deals that no longer meet our higher thresholds. Over the past three quarters, we have walked away from over 9,000 of our option lots and many additional deals have been deferred or restructured. This cost us $12 million in forfeited options and sunk development costs, $6 million of which was in the fourth quarter. At fiscal year-end, we owned approximately 37,700 lots and controlled about 38,300 through options. This is a 6,000 lot or 7.5% reduction in total lots in the fourth quarter alone. We continue to target an overall mix of 60% optioned and 40% owned over the longer term. Excluding the lots allocated to our backlog, 56% of total lots were controlled through options.

Our existing land should allow us to grow community count 10% in fiscal year 2023. We also control enough land for further community count growth in 2024. As a reminder, we acquired much of the land for our planned fiscal year '23 community openings prior to 2021 before land prices started inflating. In fiscal '22, we spent approximately $2.2 billion on land acquisition and development. In light of current market conditions, we expect to significantly reduce this spend in '23, which should free up capital for other uses. With over $3 billion of liquidity at fiscal year-end and substantial operating cash flow projected in fiscal year 2023, we are in a strong position to pay down debt, buy back stock and opportunistically acquire control of land that may become more attractively priced, all while maintaining a conservative and low leverage balance sheet.

In the fourth quarter, we repurchased $159 million of our common stock. Since the beginning of the fiscal year, we have repurchased approximately $543 million or 9% of our outstanding share count at the end of fiscal year 2021. We have also paid approximately $90 million in dividends in '22 and we retired $410 million of long-term debt. We expect debt reduction and share repurchases to remain an important part of our capital allocation priorities for the foreseeable future. We are planning to retire $400 million of our 4.375% bonds in mid-January when they become callable at par and we are targeting $100 million of share repurchases per quarter in fiscal year 2023. With that, I'll turn it over to Marty.

Martin Connor: Thanks, Doug. As you mentioned, we are pleased with our fourth quarter and full year results. Our deliveries, revenue, net income and earnings per share were all quarterly and full year records. We noticed a few analysts wrote overnight about our drop in average price per home in new contracts quarter-over-quarter. We want to point out that this is not reflective of an actual price drop, but rather the elevated average price from Q3 associated with our calculation methodology, which we described in detail last quarter. Turning to fiscal year '22's fourth quarter. We delivered 3,765 homes and generated revenues of $3.6 billion, which were up 12.7% in homes and 21.4% in dollars from a year ago. The average price of homes delivered was $951,000.

Fourth quarter net income was $640.5 million or $5.63 per share diluted compared to $374.3 million and $3.02 per share diluted a year ago. Included in net income was an after-tax net benefit of approximately $105 million related to the settlement of a legal claim over a 2015 gas leak in California, including an offset for the $10 million we used to fund our new foundation. Adjusting for this net benefit, net income was $535 million or $4.71 per share, up 43% compared to last year's fourth quarter and still an all-time quarterly earnings record. For the full year, we earned $10.90 per share on a GAAP basis. Excluding the net benefits associated with the settlement and contribution, we earned $10 per share . As Doug mentioned, our fourth quarter adjusted gross margin was 29%, up 310 basis points compared to 25.9% in the fourth quarter of 2021.

SG&A as a percentage of revenues was 7.7% in the quarter compared to 8.8% in the same quarter one year ago. The year-over-year reduction in SG&A percentage is primarily related to the leverage from increased revenues, but also to tighter cost controls as total SG&A expense only grew $6 million on $630 million in additional revenue, excluding the $10 million contribution we made to our charitable foundation with proceeds of the legal settlement. Joint venture, land sales and other income was $152.5 million during the fourth quarter, which includes an approximately $141 million benefit related to the legal segment. That compares to $63.5 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021. Excluding the settlement, we exceeded our guidance on this line item by approximately $12 million.

Write-offs totaled $22 million in the quarter. Approximately $6 million of this amount was related to walk away and predevelopment costs on optioned land that we decided not to pursue. The remainder was associated with anticipated losses on the pending sales of two wholly-owned City Living land partials that we have decided not to build. Instead, we will sell. Both are under contract and in due diligence with buyers. We did not have any impairments on any of our traditional homebuilding land or operating communities. We continued to generate strong cash flow this year with $978 million of cash flow from operations. We ended the fiscal year with over $3 billion of liquidity, including $1.3 billion of cash and $1.8 billion available under our revolving bank credit facility.

In fiscal year 2022, we invested $2.2 billion in land acquisition and land development and our spend dropped in each quarter as the year progressed. We also returned $633 million to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends and we reduced debt by approximately $410 million. Our net debt-to-capital ratio was 23.4% at fiscal year-end. As Doug mentioned, we are planning to further reduce our debt by repaying $400 million of senior notes due in April but callable at par in mid-January. After we repay these notes, we will have no significant maturities of our long-term debt until fiscal 2026. During the quarter, we transferred two New York City -- New York market City Living projects into joint ventures as part of our capital efficiency initiatives.

Results from our former City Living segment are now reported in the regions in which the projects are located, primarily the North for this and all future reporting periods. Prior periods reported in our earnings release have been reclassified and additional periods will be reclassified in our upcoming 10-K. Our forward guidance is subject to the usual caveats regarding forward-looking information. As Doug mentioned, the 8,098 homes in backlog at fiscal year-end gives us good visibility into next year. The contracts in backlog are supported by sizable non-refundable down payments, additional promissory notes, and as Doug laid out not to be minimized, the emotional attachment our buyers have to their new, highly personalized homes. However, given the unpredictability of the current demand environment, the volatility in mortgage rates, inflationary pressures and unclear global and macroeconomic conditions, I want to stress that our forward-looking projections, especially for the full year are subject to greater uncertainty than normal.

With that said, we are projecting fiscal year 2023 first quarter deliveries of approximately 1,750 to 1,850 homes with an average delivered price of between $950,000 and $970,000. Consistent with normal seasonal patterns, first quarter deliveries are expected to be the low point of the year, with deliveries for the full fiscal year weighted to the second half. For full fiscal year 2023, we are projecting new home deliveries of between 8,000 and 9,000 homes with an average price between $965,000 and $985,000. We expect our adjusted gross margin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023 and for the full year to be approximately 27%. We expect interest and cost of sales to be approximately 1.6% in the first quarter and 1.5% for the full year. This would represent a 20 basis point reduction in interest expense in cost of sales year-over-year as our leverage continues to decline.

We project first quarter SG&A as a percentage of home sales revenues to be approximately 13.5% versus 13.4% one year ago. Included in first quarter SG&A is about $12 million of our annual accelerated stock compensation expense that should not recur in the remainder of the year. It was approximately $10 million last year. For the full year, we project SG&A as a percentage of home sales revenues to be approximately 11.3% and expect total dollar spend to be flat with 2022. Other income, income from unconsolidated entities and land sales gross profit is expected to be approximately $10 million in the first quarter and $125 million for the full year. Much of this full year income is projected from sales of our interest in certain stabilized apartment communities developed by Toll Brothers Apartment Living in joint venture with various partners.

While the market for rental properties is currently being disrupted by the volatility in rates and economic uncertainty, we do project selling our interest in four of our joint ventures by the end of the fiscal year. We project the first quarter and full year tax rate of approximately 26%. Our weighted average share count is expected to be approximately 112.5 million for the first quarter and 110 million shares for the full 2023 year. This assumes we repurchased a targeted $100 million of common stock per quarter. Based on land we currently own or control, we expect to grow community count by 10% by the end of fiscal year 2023. Putting this all together, that works out to be between $8 and $9 per share for the full year which would move our book value to above $60 at fiscal year-end 2023.

With that, I will turn the call back over to Doug.

Douglas Yearley: Thank you, Marty. We continue to believe that the long-term prospects for the housing market remain positive despite the recent market weakness. Demographic and migration trends continue in our favor. In addition, there continues to be a substantial shortage of homes in America as how the starts have not kept up with population growth for at least the past 15 years. We believe these fundamental drivers will support the housing market well into the future. Before I open the call to questions, I want to again thank the entire Toll Brothers team for another great year. We are now facing a tougher environment. But we've been through this before. We are executing on the right strategy for our company, and I am confident that our experienced teams will once again rise to the challenge and deliver another solid year for Toll Brothers in fiscal 2023 and beyond. With that, let me open it up for questions. Jason, it's all yours.

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