Funeral giant InvoCare has nearly doubled its half-year profit to $41.08 million following improved returns from prepaid contracts and an increase in the number of deaths.
Revenue for the six months to June 30 lifted 7.0 per cent to $241.49 million from the previous year and its interim dividend is unchanged at 17.5 cents, fully franked.
"InvoCare's operating results for this period were promising and we are beginning to see a positive contribution from Protect and Grow," chief executive Martin Earp said.
Protect and Grow is the company's multi-million dollar investment program into modernising its facilities.
This year, Australia's largest funeral provider announced it was expanding into the pet cremation industry and launched its first facility under the name Patch & Purr in Wollongong.
"Our entry into the pet cremation sector is a natural expansion of our core business and the focus is to provide a significantly higher level of service to both pet owners and veterinary clinics than is currently offered," Mr Earp said.
The company said acquisitions into the regional market had substantially contributed to half-year results, announcing continual expansion in this area with the recent addition of Heritage Funerals in Toowoomba, Queensland.
Singapore funeral sales increased by 41.4 per cent to $9.5 million after re-opening recently renovated parlours, while New Zealand sales in terms of Aussie dollars increased by 1.7 per cent to $22.5 million, benefiting from foreign exchange movements.
InvoCare said deaths had reverted to historic norms at an estimated growth of 1.2 per cent on the previous corresponding period following a near 60 per cent fall in full-year 2018 profit after fewer people than usual died over winter.
Funeral case volume growth for July 2019 is broadly in line with expectations, while InvoCare said it would not provide full-year guidance due to the fluctuations in deaths during the critical winter trading period.
Half-year earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation grew 16.9 per cent to $53.7 million but operating earnings after tax was dragged down 5.2 per cent to $22.3 million following changes to its standard accounting.
InvoCare shares were down 7.8 per cent to a four-month low of $14.015 at 1456 AEST.
INVOCARE'S HY19 RESULTS
* Total revenue up 7.0pct to $241.49m
* Profit up 97pct to $41.08 m
* Fully franked interim dividend unchanged at 17.5 cents.