Good year for deaths drives profit rise for British funeral firm

A paper butterfly is displayed on a coffin during Asia Funeral Expo (AFE) in Hong Kong May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

LONDON (Reuters) - A sharp increase in the number of deaths in Britain in 2015 compared with the previous year helped funeral services firm Dignity post a 16-percent profit increase, the firm said on Wednesday. Dignity said the 7-percent year-on-year rise in the number of deaths in England, Scotland and Wales represented a rate of change not seen for over 60 years. "This has been an extraordinary year, with the number of deaths changing in percentage terms by a greater amount than any year since 1952," the firm said. "As a result, the group's funeral and cremation volumes were much higher than originally expected." A spokeswoman said the firm did not know the reason for the increase. She added that the broader trend was that the rate of deaths had been dropping since the 1970s and was forecast to start rising again in the 2020s. Dignity said its underlying operating profit for 2015 was 98.7 million pounds ($138 million), up 16 percent on the 2014 figure. (Reporting by Kate Holton; writing by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Paul Sandle)

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