- UK funeral group Dignity said Wednesday first-half pre-tax profits came in better than expected amid a higher death rate.

The company also revealed a three-pronged transformation plan which would aim to: increase the value for the customer by introducing a new tiered approach to target different market segments; invest and simply the operating model and streamline support to enable investment.

For the six months to 30 June, pre-tax profits fell 15% to £38.5m, revenue rose 3% to £174.7m and underlying profit before tax fell 6% to £43.4m, which was a smaller decline than anticipated at the beginning of the year.

The company said the number of deaths it dealt with in the six months to 30 June were 324,000, up 5% from 308,000 the same period a year ago. 'We are pleased with the strong and better than originally expected financial performance in the first half of this year. Strong cash generation will support planned investments and costs which form part of our plan for the funeral business,' the company said. The company managed to grow market share modestly for the first half of 2018 to 12.1%, compared to 11.8% for the same period in 2017.

This comes as the group cut the price of its 'Simple Funerals' by approximately 25% to match the Co-op's prices.

Dignity raised maintained its interim dividend at 8.65p.

Looking ahead, the company said it expects 600,000 deaths for the full year based on the first half of 2018. Dignity said: '2019 is likely to see underlying profitability lower than 2018, but in line with current market expectations. In the medium term, the Board believes that targeting solid single digit increases in underlying operating profit is appropriate and achievable.'

At 8:30am: [LON:DTY] Dignity PLC share price was +71.5p at 1083.5p

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