In some respects, I'm surprised with what I saw Friday from NovaStar Financial
Results for the second quarter appeared to be both solid in their own right and relative to expectations. Loan originations were up 19%, net interest income was up 51%, and loans under management grew 42%. When it all hits the bottom line, net income was up 11% and EPS was down 4% (due to increased share dilution). For those investors interested in non-generally accepted accounting principles "core earnings," per-share growth here was 77% for the quarter.
Interestingly, book value climbed 52% from the year-ago level to $16.29. While skeptics are going to retort that book value can be inflated if the asset values are overstated, it's a circular argument at some point. The presented numbers are whatever they are -- believe them or don't -- and invest accordingly.
In the quarterly report, management confirmed that it's continuing its recent dividend policy -- that is, a $1.40 quarterly dividend. The dividend policy at NovaStar is a bit more complicated than with regular companies because of its status as a mortgage REIT: NovaStar must pay out 85% of its taxable income as dividends or pay a 4% excise tax on the excess.
As a result, NovaStar has paid special dividends in the past to disgorge excess income without disrupting its regular dividend payment schedule. Within its guidance, management said it does not anticipate paying such a special dividend. Even if NovaStar ultimately underpays and is forced to pay an excise tax, the amounts involved are likely still cost-effective, and NovaStar might actually be better served by hanging on to the cash and paying the tax as opposed to borrowing money at higher rates.
This is still not a favored idea for me. I'm not a fan of the mortgage market and I have serious concerns about what will happen if or when the boom ends, the economy stalls, and defaults go up. But that's not an issue unique to NovaStar -- I personally wouldn't buy Hanover Capital
If the housing market has a soft landing and the Fed stops hiking rates before the economy hits the skids, NovaStar could come out all right and keep paying a nice dividend. But if I were going to make a play for high yields today, I'd rather look at Canadian royalty trusts and leave the mortgage REITs for other investors.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).