Radian Group Flubs Earnings Call (Update 1)
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Radian Group
One issue was a complex stock-based compensation award that appears to penalize the company when its stock performs well.
Radian shares, which opened only slightly lower and spent some time in positive territory Wednesday morning, moved lower after an 11 a.m. analyst call and were down by more than 5% at one point. They recovered slightly by mid-afternoon and were down 3.43% to $11.54 at about 2:15 pm.
Compensation-related expenses cost Radian $38 million in the first quarter vs. $13.5 million in the fourth quarter and $8 million in the first quarter of 2012. Overall, Radian posted operating losses of 16 cents per share before taxes, 7 cents below consensus and 44 cents lower than Credit Suisse estimates.
A report from Credit Suisse referred to the compensation issue as "more one-time in nature." However, at least three analysts asked Radian about it on Wednesday's 11 a.m. earnings call, and their questions suggested they don't fully understand how the deal works.
Radian shares gained a whopping 75% in the first quarter as its percentage of delinquent loans have declined and business has picked up. Investors are also counting on an increased role for private mortgage insurers as the government looks for ways to reduce its dominant role in U.S. housing.
While Radian management attributed the increased compensation-related costs to the strong stock performance, it doesn't appear to be quite that simple.
When KBW analyst Bose George asked if a flat stock price would drive the compensation number to zero, Radian CFO Bob Quint replied that it would not, but might more closely resemble the costs in the first and fourth quarters of last year.
"The amount above those numbers was really generated by the increase in stock price and then this quarter we also had some volatility increases and relative performance increases so all of those kind of hit this quarter," Quint said.
The confusion prompted Dowling & Partners analyst Geoffrey Dunn to ask "is there any cost-effective way to hedge this out and negate it?"
CEO S.A. Ibrahim credited Dunn with "an interesting question," adding "it's a good problem to have and everybody should be happy that our stock went up as much as it did and this was driven in part by the fact that for the years in which this award was given out we did not have enough equity to give out equity-settled awards and so we will consider equity-settled awards as opposed to cash-settled awards in the future."