Toll Brothers sees big drop in sales

Homebuilder also expects to take up to $300 million in writedowns in first quarter; still sees 'challenging times' ahead.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc., which last quarter reported its first loss as a public company, released preliminary first-quarter results Wednesday that showed a sharp drop in sales.

Toll Brothers (TOL, Fortune 500) warned: "We are not yet seeing much light at the end of the tunnel," and said it expects to take up to $300 million in pre-tax writedowns in the first quarter.

The company did not provide specific earnings details, but said that average first-quarter homebuilding revenues fell 22% to about $842.7 million.

Signed homebuilding contracts declined 38% to 904 from 1,463 during the same period last year. First-quarter contracts totaled about $573.2 million, down 46% from $1.07 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.

The housing slump, which has resulted in a fall in home prices and sales across the country, has also affected Toll Brothers' average price per contract. The company reported an average price per home building contract of $634,000, down from $730,000 in the year-ago period.

`"The housing market remains very weak in most areas, Robert I. Toll, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. Chief Financial Officer Joel H. Rassman forecast "challenging times ahead."

Toll will announce full results when it releases first-quarter earnings on Feb. 27. To top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.