Oaktree, Ryland Forming Acquisition Co.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ryland Group (RYL.N), the No. 9 U.S. homebuilder, said on Monday that it was forming an acquisition and development company with a partner, adding its name to a lengthening list of builders looking to exploit distress in their industry.

The venture with Oaktree Capital, which has more than $55 billion in assets under management, will take advantage of the protracted downturn in the U.S. residential real estate market that has lowered prices on both homes and land.

Rival builder Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV.N) announced in September that it was forming a joint land-buying venture although it later said broader economic turmoil had caused some potential partners to put their plans on hold.

Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers (TOL.N) said in late January that it is seeing more distressed land deals on offer and that it had two under active consideration. Meritage Homes (MTH.N), the No. 12 U.S. homebuilder, amplified that sentiment last week, saying the pace of attractive land deals coming to market is “accelerating right now dramatically.”

Ryland shares were up 45 cents, or 2.9 percent, at $16.05 in afternoon trading. (Reporting by Helen Chernikoff; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tim Dobbyn)