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NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 5, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Stewart Enterprises, Inc. (Nasdaq:STEI) reported today its results for the third quarter ended July 31, 2012, which reflect strong improvement in gross profit as a result of increased revenues and the Company's continuous focus on effectively controlling its costs.
The Company reported net earnings from continuing operations for the quarter ended July 31, 2012 of $9.9 million, or $.11 per diluted share, compared to net earnings from continuing operations of $12.2 million, or $.13 per diluted share, for the quarter ended July 31, 2011. Net earnings from continuing operations for the quarter ended July 31, 2011 included a $12.4 million ($7.3 million after tax, or $.08 per diluted share) recovery related to the settlement of the Hurricane Katrina litigation.
After adjusting earnings from continuing operations for the Hurricane Katrina recovery and certain other items, as discussed in the table "Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures," the Company reported adjusted earnings from continuing operations of $9.6 million, or $.11 per diluted share for the quarter ended July 31, 2012, compared to adjusted earnings from continuing operations of $7.1 million, or $.08 per diluted share for the quarter ended July 31, 2011.
Thomas M. Kitchen, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, "For the quarter, we significantly improved adjusted net earnings by 35 percent and adjusted earnings per share by 38 percent. Some additional highlights of the third quarter compared to the same quarter of last year include:
Achieving a 4 percent increase in revenue, a 24 percent increase in gross profit and a 340 basis point improvement in gross profit margin;
Improving cemetery gross profit by 51 percent and cemetery gross profit margin by 520 basis points;
Increasing funeral gross profit by 10 percent and improving funeral gross profit margin by 200 basis points;
Generating operating cash flow of $30.3 million, or an increase of 22 percent, and free cash flow of $26.7 million, or an increase of 41 percent;
Realizing a 19 percent improvement in adjusted EBITDA to $26.5 million, as discussed in the table "Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures;" and
Producing total returns of 1 percent in our preneed trusts and total returns of 2 percent in our perpetual care trusts. For the nine months ended July 31, 2012, we produced total returns of 9 percent in our preneed trusts and 11 percent in our perpetual care trusts."
Mr. Kitchen added, "Fiscal year 2012 continues to be a very successful year for our Company and our shareholders. For the first nine months of 2012, we increased total revenue by more than $3 million and gross profit by $6 million, which reflects the highest nine-month revenue and gross profit in four years. In addition, we improved adjusted net earnings by $3 million or an additional $.04 per adjusted diluted share, compared to the first nine months of 2011. We continued to invest in our cremation inventory development projects spending approximately $7 million in the first nine months of fiscal year 2012, which represents a $5 million increase over the same period of last year. Cemetery cremation sales improved by 20 percent during the first nine months of 2012 compared to the same period of last year, highlighting the positive returns of our ongoing cremation initiative. Our sales team continues to produce strong results by expanding sales and profitability and delivering an improved customer experience. In fact, for the first nine months of 2012, we have increased preneed funeral sales by 13 percent and improved cemetery property sales by 5 percent compared to the first nine months of 2011, resulting in the best start to a fiscal year in preneed sales in four years."