A mysterious spike in the number of deaths boosted half-year profits at funerals firm Dignity.
The firm was ‘assisted by a 5.6 per cent increase in the number of deaths compared to the same period last year’.
Revenues were up 14.3 per cent to £133million as a result, with pre-tax profit rising 18 per cent to £32million.
The six-month period included the unusually cold end to a prolonged winter, but Dignity refused to blame the increase in the number of deaths on the weather.
Dignity added that the board ‘expects the number of deaths to normalise over the remainder of the year’.
Despite the rise in profit, Dignity declared no interim dividend because it has already announced a return of cash to shareholders.
It will give investors £62million, or £1.08 per share, subject to their approval for the scheme at a vote on August 8.
The buyback is the third since Dignity floated in 2004 and takes the total cash returned to shareholders to £261million, compared to a £184million stock market value on the day the company listed.
The latest windfall is partly funded by a £98million bond issue, the remainder of which was used to pay down debt racked up with the acquisition of funerals and crematoria business Yew Holdings.
Dignity said integration of Yew was going well and had delivered £2.1million of operating profit so far, in line with expectations.
The firm sold fewer pre-arranged funeral plans during the period but said ‘good control of costs’ had allowed it to improve profits. But Dignity’s shares fell 62p to 1475p.
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