A significant fall in the number of people dying in the UK has forced one of Britain’s biggest undertakers to issue a profit warning.
Dignity, the UK’s only publicly listed funeral services company, said the number of deaths in the 13 weeks to 29 March fell by 12% to 159,000.
This led to a 15% drop in revenues to £81.1m and dragged underlying operating profit down by 42% to £21.7m.
The news sent the company’s shares down 6% in early trading.
Data over the past 20 years indicates that deaths in the full year are likely to be 3% lower than 2018, at 580,000. This means that its full-year operating profits would come in £3m to £4m lower than expected. It had forecast £307m of revenues and profits of £68m.
The Competition and Markets Authority has found that the cost of organising a funeral rose by 6% each year – twice the inflation rate – for the past 14 years, and launched an 18-month investigation into the funeral market in March. It noted that profit margins at the biggest firms were high by international standards, with Dignity’s in particular “well above” those in other countries.