Funeral firm Dignity halts dividend after profit slump

Funeral firm Dignity halts dividend after profit slump
By Reuters

(Reuters) – Dignity Plc <DTY.L> said on Wednesday it was suspending its dividend after profits nearly halved in the first half of 2019, hit by a drop in the number of funerals it conducted and a shift towards lower-cost services, sending its shares down 10%.

The results come at a time when the UK is planning to regulate parts of the funerals business, after a probe found providers were taking advantage of grieving families with high pressure sales tactics.

“Consumers are becoming more demanding and sophisticated. Values are changing, with increased secularism and a growing demand for personalised, lower-cost services, supported with online resources,” the company said.

“There are fewer visits to the High Street and more online research and shopping around.”

The company reported underlying profit before tax of 23.9 million pounds for the six months to June 28, down from 43.4 million pounds a year earlier.

Dignity, which runs more than 800 undertakers across Britain, said it conducted 36,200 funerals in the UK, 9% fewer from a year earlier, while the average revenue per funeral also fell.

The company also said it would implement major changes at its branches as part of its transformation plan.

Dignity said it continues to believe it could post “solid” single digit growth in underlying earnings per share after the transformation plan is complete.

(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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