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Service Corporation (SCI) Looks Solid, Gains About 10% in 3 Months

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Service Corporation International (SCI - Free Report) has been benefiting from higher funeral services performed and increased burials in its cemeteries, especially amid the pandemic. Additionally, the company’s focus on making property developments has been yielding results. Increased funerals and burials, together with a robust cost structure, fueled the first-quarter 2020 results of this deathcare products and services provider. Also, management pulled up its earnings guidance for 2021.

Encouragingly, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 earnings has gone up 7.4% to $2.89 per share over the past 60 days. Further, shares of this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company have gained 9.6% in the past three months, comfortably outpacing the industry’s growth of 4.1%. In fact, the company also outdid the Zacks Consumer Staples sector and the S&P 500’s respective increases of 8.3% and 7.8%. Let’s take a closer look.

Solid Q1 & Raised View

In first-quarter 2021, both earnings and revenues improved year over year and surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Incidentally, both Funeral and Cemetery segments benefited from higher core revenues. The bottom line was backed by elevated gross profit, resulting from increased funeral services and burials performed along with a robust increase in cemetery recognized preneed revenues. Further, the bottom line gained from reduced shares outstanding and a decline in interest expenses.

Based on the sturdy performance witnessed during the first quarter, management raised its bottom-line projection for 2021. It now envisions adjusted earnings per share in the range of $2.70-$3.00 compared with $2.50-$2.90 projected earlier. The company’s guidance for the year is wider than usual due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 impact. We note that the company’s earnings came in at $2.91 per share in 2020. Additionally, management informed that the company is on track with its long-term earnings growth framework. Accordingly, it will maintain focus on its core strategies that include growing revenues by remaining relevant to client families, leveraging scale and maximizing capital deployment opportunities.

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Other Upsides

The company remains committed to pursuing strategic buyouts for both segments and building new funeral homes to generate greater returns. In first-quarter 2021, the company incurred capital expenditures of $42.3 million. It undertook several cemetery development and construction projects. These investments are touted to be accretive to the company in the near term. Expenditures associated with capital enhancements at current locations and cemetery development are anticipated in a band of $235-$255 million in 2021.

Revenues in the Cemetery segment have been increasing for the past few quarters. During the first quarter, segment revenues rose 53.8% to $458.5 million, thanks to increased core revenues. Core revenues gained from an increase in both atneed and total recognized preneed revenues. Comparable Cemetery revenues improved 53.9% year over year on the back of higher core revenues. This, in turn, was fueled by elevated recognized preneed revenues owing to solid comparable preneed cemetery property sales production. Moreover, growth in atneed revenues, which stemmed from a rise in burials performed, was an upside.

Comparable preneed cemetery sales production rose 67.1% owing to growth in large sales, sales averages and sales velocity. The company continued to gain from an efficient sales force, prudent utilization of customer relationship management systems, and improved conversion rates from direct mail and digital lead campaigns. Further, the company continued to witness elevated conversion and close rates, thanks to customers’ greater awareness of the possible effects of coronavirus. It also saw an increase in location traffic as a result of greater funeral services and burials performed.  Solid revenues, together with an improved cost structure, also fueled segment gross profit and margin.

Clearly, it looks like Service Corporation is set to keep its splendid show on.

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