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by SixFigureStart | February 10, 2009

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Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." And yet, those too are being affected by the recession, although not as obviously. In the months ahead, Americans may get some tax breaks to promote personal spending. And at the other end of the life/death spectrum, while people are still passing on, some are being shuffled off in more modest style. Service Corporation International, the largest funeral and cemetery business in North America, just lowered its estimates for fourth quarter and annual financials (due at the end of February). Through three fiscal quarters of 2008, SCI's net cash from operating activities was down 30 percent from 2007, and when losses from investment and financing activities were taken into account, the net cash increase for the period was just $3 million, compared to $248 million the year before. For the latest reported quarter, net income dropped 50 percent.

SCI -- with 1,300 funeral homes and 350 cemeteries under its umbrella -- has been hit as customers opt for simpler accoutrements (mahogany and copper caskets are out, pressboard and wood are in) and defer spending on pre-need cemetery plots. But at least it has a steady stream of (unfortunate) customers, and can cater to those who realize they can't take it all with them.

--Posted by Todd Obolsky, Vault News & Commentary

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