Business

Funeral firm Dignity hit by fewer deaths

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Funeral firm Dignity says its profits are likely to be lower this year because fewer people have died in 2019 so far.

Dignity said the absolute number of deaths in the first three months of 2019 fell by about 12% to 159,000, compared with 181,000 in the same period last year.

As a result, its underlying operating profit fell 42% to £21.7m.

It added that full-year profit could be £3m-£4m lower than previously thought.

Dignity performed 19,200 funerals in the quarter, as against 21,400 in the first three months of 2018.

However, its market share went up from 11.7% to 12%.

Dignity outlined the reasons for its revised guidance in appropriately sober language.

"Historical data indicates that it is likely that this proportional decrease will not continue throughout the remainder of the year and that the full year will finish within approximately 3% of the previous year," it said, referring to the total number of deaths.

If that happened, "then all other matters being equal, underlying operating profits for the full year could be approximately £3m to £4m lower than originally anticipated".

Figures issued by the Office for National Statistics confirm the lower number of deaths, but they also indicate that the first three months of 2018 saw a particularly high number of deaths, because of flu outbreaks and extreme cold weather.

The ONS says that the 2019 figures are "likely to reflect a return to a more usual level of death registrations".

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