MARKET REPORT: Funeral provider Dignity dives 16.9% as it warns lower death rate and increasing competition could see business slow

On a day when there was little or no FTSE reaction to the Chancellor’s Budget, it was Dignity which was among the biggest tumblers, as it claimed there could be significantly fewer deaths this year.

There were some 590,000 deaths in 2016, higher than expected after an increase the previous year.

The funeral services provider said a lower death rate and increasing competition could see business slow in 2017.

The group has seen its market share slip from 12.3 per cent to 11.8 per cent, despite acquisitions and new site openings.

Funeral provider Dignity which was among the day’s biggest tumblers, as it warned there could be significantly fewer deaths this year

Dignity conducted 70,700 funerals in the year and sold 49,000 pre-arranged funeral plans.

Revenue for the year was up 3 per cent to £313.6million and underlying pre-tax profit also up 3 per cent to £101.7million. But the cautious outlook saw shares plunge 16.9 per cent, or 468p, to 2296p.

The FTSE 100 finished fractionally lower, down 0.06 per cent, to 4.38 points to 7334.61.

Worldpay group was the highest riser as JP Morgan upped its target price for the stock, by 10p to 290p, a day after it reported a surge in profits. Shares climbed 4.8 per cent, or 13.2p, to 285.7p.

Infrastructure supplier Hill & Smith reported pre-tax profit had shot up 45 per cent to £48.3million in the year. Revenue climbed 9 per cent to reach a record £540.1million in 2016.

Bagir Group designs and makes formalwear tailoring for department stores and private label brands.

The firm said roads continued to benefit from investment in the UK with more major projects due to start. Overseas business is growing and its galvanising business was strong in the UK and US.

Hill & Smith said it was well-placed to benefit from an increase in infrastructure spending in the UK and the US and expected another year of progress. Shares gained 8.5 per cent, or 98p, to 1248p.

Tyman said pre-tax profit had soared 89 per cent to £29.1million in its full-year results.

The firm, which makes components for windows and doors, said acquisitions and a weaker pound boosted profit.

Business in the UK had held up better than expected after the EU referendum although the outlook was uncertain because of the impact of inflation on consumer incomes and a lower level of house sales.

The firm continues to improve its margins and hiked its dividend 20 per cent to 10.5p. Shares leapt 10 per cent, or 28p, to 308p.

Record profits weren’t enough to keep shares in motor retailer Lookers in the black. The firm reported an increase in revenue of 17 per cent to £4.3billion for the year and pre-tax profit up 46 per cent to £91.8million.

But that included an exceptional profit from the £28million sale of its parts division. Lookers has also offloaded ten underperforming dealerships and said it was focused on acquisitions of the right brands in the right places.

It is also launching a new website this year. Lookers said it had been a good start to the year and it had a healthy order book for new cars for new registration plates this month.

Peel Hunt said the shares looked oversold and Liberum said the firm was well-positioned for long-term growth. Both brokers have a ‘buy’ rating on the stock. Shares tumbled 4.3 per cent, or 5.5p, to 122.5p.

Software firm WANdisco plunged despite halving its loss for the year to £6.2million.

The firm has cut costs to reduce overheads by almost a third to £19.2million and reduced its cash burn.

WANdisco filed eight new patents in the year and won major new contracts, and said its order book looked strong.

Even so, shares plummeted 10.1 per cent, or 54p, to 480p.

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