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Carriage Services Inc. Reports Operating Results (10-K)

March 08, 2011 | About:

Carriage Services Inc. (NYSE:CSV) filed Annual Report for the period ended 2010-12-31.

Carriage Services Inc. has a market cap of $101.9 million; its shares were traded at around $5.73 with a P/E ratio of 12.5 and P/S ratio of 0.5. Carriage Services Inc. had an annual average earning growth of 3.9% over the past 5 years.

Highlight of Business Operations:

We are a leading provider of death care services and merchandise in the United States. We operate two types of businesses: funeral homes, which currently account for approximately 75% of our total revenue, and cemeteries, which currently account for approximately 25% of our total revenue. As of December 31, 2010, we operated 147 funeral homes in 25 states and 33 cemeteries in 12 states. We primarily serve suburban and rural markets, where we primarily compete with smaller, independent operators, and believe we are a market leader (first or second) in most of our markets. We provide funeral and cemetery services and products on both an at-need (time of death) and preneed (planned prior to death) basis.

During 2008 and 2009, we also used our cash to repurchase $10 million of our common stock when the price per share was low due to the weak financial markets in the economic crisis. Beginning in the latter half of 2008 and continuing through the first half of 2009, we completely repositioned the trust fund investment portfolios to take advantage of what management viewed as pricing dislocations in the financial and capital markets, which resulted in returns of 47.4% in 2009 and 18.4% in 2010, and a much higher level of recurring interest and dividend income. During 2009, we also amended and extended the maturity of our revolving bank credit facility to November 2012 in order to provide financing for future acquisitions, if needed.

Death rates and the number of deaths in the United States have been relatively stable on a long-term historical basis. The number of deaths in the United States increased at an annual rate of approximately 1% for the period from 1980 to 2000. Beginning in 2001, the number of deaths has trended lower very slightly as the general population is living longer and because of low birth rates in the period from early 1930s to mid 1940s during the depression and World War II. Management understands that the number of deaths declined 0.7% in 2010 compared to 2009. The recent trend is projected to reverse in coming years due to the aging of the baby boomer generation. Based on data from the National Population Projections released in 2008 by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people age 65 and over is expected to increase by approximately 16% from 2010 to 2015, and will increase to 14.4% of the population in 2015 from 13% of the population in 2010.

We understand that there are approximately 20,900 funeral homes and 10,500 cemeteries in the United States and that the domestic death care industry generates approximately $15 billion of revenue annually. The largest public operators, in terms of revenue, of both funeral homes and cemeteries in the United States are Service Corporation International (SCI), Stewart Enterprises, Inc. (Stewart), StoneMor Partners L.P. and Carriage Services, Inc. We believe these four companies collectively represent approximately 10% of death care revenues in the United States. Independent businesses represent the remaining amount of industry revenue, accounting for an estimated 80% share. Within the independent businesses, there are a number of privately-owned consolidators. SCI acquired what was the second largest public company in the industry at the time, Alderwoods Group, in the latter half of 2006. In March 2010, SCI acquired Keystone North America, Inc., another large public operator. During 2010, we acquired five independent businesses and one business from Stewart.

Enhancement of Funeral Services. A significant trend is an increasing preference of our client families for cremation. The percentages of funeral services conducted by us for which cremation was chosen as the manner in which to dispose of remains was 42.1% for the year ended December 31, 2009 and 44.1% for the year ended December 31, 2010. For the year ended December 31, 2010, 55.6% of the number of our total cremation services were direct cremations (where no memorial service or visitation is involved, although merchandise may be sold) and 44.4% included services. One of our training initiatives throughout the Company focuses on increasing the percentage of our cremation customers that choose services. All of our funeral homes offer cremation products and services. While the average revenue for a cremation service is generally lower than that of a traditional full-service funeral, we have found that these revenues can be substantially enhanced by our emphasis on offering services and merchandise.

Our cemetery operating results are impacted by the size and success of our sales organization, evidenced by the statistic that 41% of our cemetery revenues was generated from preneed sales of interment rights during the year ended December 31, 2010. An additional 11% of our 2010 cemetery revenues was generated from deliveries of merchandise and services previously sold on preneed contracts. We believe that changes in the level of consumer confidence (a measure of whether consumers will spend money on discretionary items) impacts the success rate of preneed sales and is currently having a significant negative impact on our preneed sales success rate and the industry as a whole. To combat the lower success rate, we embarked on a program in late 2008 to hire approximately 100 additional sales counselors. We completed the hiring phase in the first quarter of 2009. Coming into a more normal economy, we have focused more on quality sales counselors rather than quantity. Cemetery revenues generated from at-need services and merchandise sales generally are subject to many of the same key profitability factors as in our funeral home business. Approximately 14% of our cemetery revenue was attributable to investment earnings on trust funds and finance charges on installment contracts during the year ended D

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About the author:

Charlie Tian, Ph.D. - Founder of GuruFocus. You can now order his book Invest Like a Guru on Amazon.

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