PHH Corp., which provides mortgages and offers fleet-management services, said yesterday that it would cut $50 million in costs at the unit that services home loans, including an unspecified number of jobs.
A regulatory filing by the Mount Laurel company said PHH would reduce staff, slash spending on administration and information technology, and outsource back-office operations.
The most recent annual report by PHH said 5,260 people worked in the mortgage unit as of Sept. 30. The company's total staff was about 6,700.
Mortgage companies are scrambling to keep profit flowing as demand for loans cools because of a marked slowdown in the housing industry.
While final figures have not been released, new single-family home loans probably fell 8 percent to $575 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006 compared with the third quarter, according to the U.S. Mortgage Bankers Association. Popular Inc., Sebring Capital Partners L.P., and Mortgage Lenders Network USA Inc. are among home-loan companies that closed all or part of their operations.
Also, home builder Centex Corp., which has already cut about 1,500 jobs in the last nine months, said yesterday that it would make more reductions early this year to deal with what its chief executive officer called the toughest housing market in 25 years.
Late Tuesday, Centex, of Dallas, reported it lost $228.1 million in the October-to-December quarter - its first quarterly loss.
"It's a tough market, and it's going to remain tough for a while," chief executive Timothy R. Eller told analysts yesterday.
Home builders are cutting inventory and expenses to ride out the slump in home prices that began early last year. Potential home buyers are struggling to afford new homes, and trade-up buyers are having trouble selling their current houses in the soft market, industry officials say.
At PHH, chief executive Terry Edwards said in the company's SEC filing: "We will continue to evaluate additional steps to reduce costs in the combined mortgage segments."
Mortgage originations will likely fall 15 percent to $2.15 trillion for the industry in 2007, Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group, wrote in a note to investors yesterday.
PHH's mortgage unit is one of the 10 biggest U.S. retail originators of home loans, the company said in its filings.
American Express Co.'s Web site says it uses PHH to offer loans to its own customers. Other clients include Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., TD BankNorth Inc., and the Charles Schwab Corp., according to a November regulatory filing by PHH, with Merrill accounting for almost a quarter of all PHH's new mortgages in 2005.
Services provided by PHH include taking and processing applications, preparing documents, and conducting closings. It also makes collections and manages escrow accounts to ensure that property taxes and homeowner's insurance premiums are paid.
In July, PHH announced plans to restate financial results as far back as 2001. Filings should be current "by the middle of the year," according to yesterday's statement.
Cendant Corp. spun off PHH in January 2005, and its real estate and hotel operations were divested later. In September, Cendant was renamed Avis Budget Group Inc. to reflect its remaining business as a car-rental company.