Cost control lifts funerals group by 10%

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GREAT SOUTHERN, the funerals and crematoria group, saw pre-tax profits rise 10 per cent to pounds 2.55m for the half-year to 30 June, despite lower mortality rates, writes John Murray.

'Crematoria and cemeteries and retail funeral serices have both been affected by the lower number of funerals, which has been particularly significant in London and other urban areas,' James Smillie, chairman, said.

He attributed the growth to cost control and higher contributions from ancillary services: turnover rose 4.4 per cent to pounds 14.8m.

Great Southern is particularly looking to its 'Chosen Heritage' pre-arranged funeral subsidiary for enhanced earnings. Eric Spencer, deputy chairman and chief executive, said that 46,000 of these pre-paid plans had now been sold, and that profits for the full year would be boosted by an actuarial surplus on the money held in trust under the scheme.

He added that the company was negotiating to buy a couple of independent funeral directors, and was developing a new crematorium in North Wales.

The interim dividend is 3.6p, a 9 per cent increase; the shares eased 4p to close at 257p.