PulteGroup soars on activist deal, buybacks

Pulte founder on deal with Elliot

PulteGroup got a big boost from a strong quarterly report and saw shareholders drive the stock up after news that it struck a deal with activist investor Paul Singer's Elliott Management.

The stock gained more than 5 percent Thursday, driven in part by a quarterly earnings that topped Wall Street expectations. The home builder also revealed that it will repurchase $1 billion in shares.

Also pushing shares higher was news that the company agreed Thursday to replace three directors; that move comes after former CEO William "Bill" Pulte, who remains Pulte's largest shareholder, began agitating for change at the company. Last month, Elliott Management took a stake in Pulte stock.

In a Thursday statement obtained by CNBC, the former chief executive said that "while much work remains to be done in order for a successful outcome, the board appears to be taking the first steps towards enacting change and addressing the protracted poor share price performance. If Pulte Group wants to be a very profitable builder, it has to start to realize operating efficiencies."

Construction on a new Pulte Homes development in Phoenix.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

William Pulte also took some credit himself for driving "value at PulteGroup over the last several months." But he said that "there is work to be done," and compared Pulte's recent operating performance unfavorably with rival D.R. Horton.

Pulte's statement did not refer to Singer by name, but gave some credit to "one of the world's leading activists."

In a filing Thursday, Singer agreed to support the company's slate of director nominees.

As the housing sector was battered in the global financial crisis, Pulte stock suffered and never regained losses. The company's shares are down more than 30 percent from the beginning of 2007, after hitting an all time high of more than $40 a share in 2005 and after paring gains in 2008, never touched those highs again.