The stock of Newhall Land & Farming Co. should be riding high.

The Valencia-based land development company recently reported record second-quarter earnings of $45.7 million, nearly triple the earnings for the like period last year.

And the L.A. County Board of Supervisors recently agreed to fast-track the massive Newhall Ranch project in exchange for the company setting aside more open space and building up to 15 percent fewer homes there.

Good news for Newhall Land, but so far the company's stock hasn't responded accordingly.

In the six days following the board's action, it fell 6 percent, from $29.13 to $27.38. And that decline was only the tail end of a 14 percent drop from a July 21 high of $31.69.

So what happened to the expected bounce?

Chalk it up, in part, to a case of bad timing. In recent weeks, real estate stocks have been hit hard in the general market decline, according to Katherine Flores, an associate analyst with Sutro & Co. The fall in real estate stocks started earlier this year with the cooling off of real estate investment trusts.

Also, while Flores views the supervisors' action as "a positive step," she said Wall Street apparently was looking for more.

"Wall Street is really looking for approval of the specific plan, which is still at least three months away," she said. "While that is faster than many expected, a lot could still happen between now and then."

For starters, the company still has to negotiate with county planners exactly how much the project will be scaled back to accommodate the compromise brokered by Supervisor Mike Antonovich that would set aside more land for trails and buffer zones.

The Newhall Ranch project area lies on 19 square miles of unincorporated land extending from Six Flags Magic Mountain on the east to the Ventura County line on the west. The Santa Clara River flows through the property.

Antonovich estimated that the plan would result in 20,850 homes, about 3,500 fewer than planned. But company spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said that the number of homes has yet to be determined.

"All of these issues are resolvable and we expect to submit our revised plan back to the county by Oct. 27," she said.

Conditional approval for the project could come as early as that Oct. 27 meeting; final approval could come by the end of the year, Lauffer said.


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