By DANIEL TAUB

Staff Reporter

The difference between Newhall Land and Farming Co., which is designing the 21,600-home Newhall Ranch project for the Santa Clarita Valley, and other companies doing master-planned communities in L.A. County can be summed up in one word: Valencia.

Developed by Newhall Land over the past 33 years, Valencia is one of the most successful local master-planned communities ever built, with 36,000 residents, 31,000 jobs and 13,000 housing units built so far. It also is the project with which Newhall Land and Farming is most closely associated.

With only 8,000 homes still to be built, construction of the housing portion of Valencia is expected to be completed in about five years. With an eye toward that completion, the company is gearing up to develop its next major master-planned community, the adjacent Newhall Ranch.

Those who have observed Newhall Land over the years say its success is not just based on Valencia, but also on its decision to press forward on Newhall Ranch in the early '90s, even as the California economy was in recession.

"One of the things that a company like Newhall can do, that a smaller company can have a problem doing, is take advantage of the down cycle to prepare for the up cycle," said William Fulton, editor of the California Planning and Development Report and author of "The Reluctant Metropolis," a book about L.A. development.

Newhall Land's potential shortcoming, Fulton said, is that unlike privately owned development companies, publicly traded Newhall Land has to answer to its stockholders. But, he added, that has not posed a problem because of the company's past financial success.

In 1997, the latest full year reported, Newhall Land had a net income of $44.5 million ($1.28 diluted earnings per share), compared with $41.9 million ($1.18) a year earlier and $27.3 million (75 cents) in 1995.

For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, Newhall Land had a net income of $16.3 million (47 cents), compared with $12.5 million (36 cents) for the like period a year ago.

Newhall Land and Farming traces its roots to 1875, when Henry Mayo Newhall acquired a large portion of the Santa Clarita Valley for just $90,000. The 91,000 acres the company now owns in California is valued at about $845 million.

While Newhall Land is concentrating on continuing the development of Valencia and starting on Newhall Ranch, it also keeps looking for housing development opportunities throughout the West, said Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land's vice president of corporate communications.

"We don't have anything to announce," she said. "But there are interesting opportunities out there, so we're aggressively pursuing other opportunities."

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