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Dignity conducts more funerals during pandemic, profit rises

(Reuters) - Dignity Plc said on Wednesday profit in the first half of 2020 rose 11% as it conducted more funerals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the average price per funeral fell as people chose simpler services during lockdowns.

Dignity had stopped providing church services or limousines for mourners and was operating with limitations, including a smaller number of funeral attendees due to the coronavirus shutdowns.

“The turbulent trading conditions experienced in recent months have reinforced the need for businesses to be managed proactively in order to respond promptly to unexpected events,” said Executive Chairman Clive Whiley.

The firm, which owns around 800 funeral locations and operates 46 crematoria in Britain, said the number of deaths in the six months ended June 26 rose 23% and its underlying pretax profit grew to 26.5 million pounds ($34.27 million) from 23.9 million pounds, a year earlier.

Average income per funeral came in at 2,461 pounds compared with 2,919 pounds a year earlier, it reported.

The company had cancelled its dividend a year earlier after profit fell, and had paused its transformation plan pending the outcome of a probe conducted by Britain’s competition watchdog into pricing in the funerals sector.

The company said a search for a new CEO was still progressing after long-time chief Mike McCollum abruptly stepped down in April, leaving Whiley in charge.

The strategic review initiated upon Whiley’s appointment in September was on target, Dignity added.

($1 = 0.7733 pounds)

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi