- Funeral firm Dignity on Wednesday said operating profits declined by less than expected even as the turnaround programme undertaken last year weighed on income growth.

For the 52 week period ended 28 December 2018, underlying operating profits fell 23% to £80.2m, and revenue fell 3% to £315.6m.

In January, the company guided underlying operating profits of approximately £79m.

The group performed 72,300 funerals for the year, above the 68,800 seen a year earlier, representing a market share of 11.9%, topping the 11.5% reported last year, the company said.

The company said deaths were higher than originally anticipated rising to 599,000 from 590,000 a year earlier.

The company left its 2019 guidance unchanged, which assumed underlying profitability would come in below that of 2018 but in line with market expectations. 'In the medium-term the Board believes that targeting solid single digit increases in underlying EPS is appropriate and achievable,' the company said.

'2018 marked the beginning of a period of radical change for Dignity. We reduced our funeral prices, created a broader range of choices for clients and embarked on plans to transform the business by the end of 2021,' said Mike McCollum, Chief Executive of Dignity.

'I am pleased with the progress we made during the year, we built momentum and our Transformation Plan is on track. A lot of work remains to be done, but I am confident that with our highly experienced staff and the new transformation expertise we have brought in, we will achieve our goals.'

'2019 is likely to mark the start of the Competition and Markets Authority's ('CMA's) investigation into our industry. Our surveys demonstrate that the majority of clients assume the funeral industry is regulated, when it is not. Some may assume that they will receive the same quality of service from different operators irrespective of price. They will not.'

At 9:50am: [LON:DTY] Dignity PLC share price was -11.5p at 731p

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