Thursday, March 18, 2004

Alderwoods report shows a turnaround

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Downtown Cincinnati-based Alderwoods Group Inc., the nation's No. 2 funeral services company, Wednesday reported fourth-quarter and year-end results that reversed a loss from a year ago.

Alderwoods, whose services include casket sales, remains collection, death registration and embalming, showed profits of $10.8 million, or 27 cents a share, for fiscal 2003, compared to a loss of $233.7 million, or $5.86 a share, in the previous fiscal year.

The news helped boost the company's stock by $1.05, or 11.7 percent, for the day to close at $10.05 on the Nasdaq National Market. The company attributed the turnaround to, among other items, an increase in the total number of funeral services and average revenues generated by those services in the second half of fiscal 2003.

"In a high fixed-cost business such as ours, an increase in the number of funeral services performed can have a positive effect on our financial results," said president and CEO Paul A. Houston. "We are pleased with the increase in the number of funeral services we performed in the third and fourth quarters of the year."

In addition, Houston said the firm increased total profits in all its business segments and also increased sales of pre-paid funerals.

However, Alderwoods saw profits fall 11 percent in the fourth quarter to $10.4 million, or 26 cents per share, compared to earnings of $11.7 million, or 29 cents per share, in the corresponding period a year earlier.

Total sales for the fourth quarter were $192 million, compared with $174 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002.


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