- InvoCare, one of Australia's largest funeral providers, today reported a net loss of $9.2 million over 2020.
- The group says a downturn in revenue is linked to a drop in the mortality rate, which it attributed to the effectiveness of COVID-19 lockdowns.
- New figures from the ABS show Australia's mortality rate dipped through 2020, but returned to baseline average levels in November.
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A welcome drop in Australia's mortality rate through 2020 contributed to funeral provider InvoCare reporting a net loss of $9.2 million over the year, with the group saying changes to the number and type of services it provided impacted its bottom line.
On Wednesday, InvoCare's 2020 financial report confirmed its revenue had fallen 4.5% to $477.7 million, with earnings down 29% to $102.6 million.
The group reported an overall 4.5% reduction in funeral cases, a broad reflection of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions which kept Australians inside for much of the year.
"The indicative contraction in the number of deaths can be attributed to the impact of government imposed stay at home directives, social distancing initiatives and improved personal hygiene practices, particularly over the winter flu season," InvoCare said.
"These trends have been reflected in the decline of the Group's funeral case volumes, which reduced 6% in Q2/Q3 over the peak of the pandemic and winter period and in a reduced number of cremations and burials performed at out Memorial Parks down 3.8% across the year."
It wasn't only the number of funerals which was impacted, but the type.
InvoCare reports travel restrictions and government-imposed capacity limits led many mourners to undertake smaller ceremonies. Losses were also incurred thanks to cost of live-streaming services, PPE for staff, and extra cleaning services at memorial sites.
Similar hits were experienced in New Zealand, which also exacted strict COVID-19 lockdowns, and in Singapore, where memorial services - some of which are observed over days - were curtailed by government restrictions.
The organisation also took financial hits linked to the renovation of existing properties and the purchase of purchase of two pet cremation businesses late in the year.
Amid the downturn - which InvoCare previously indicated may have an impact its financials - the group also announced a fully franked dividend of seven cents per share.
The figures arrive on the same day as the ABS' latest provisional mortality statistics.
Drawing from death certificate data between January and November 2020, the ABS data suggests the same restrictions designed to keep Australians from contracting COVID-19 corresponded with a downturn in deaths linked to influenza and other respiratory diseases.
Although COVID-19 took a cruel toll on the Australian populace, the nation recorded lower-than-average mortality rate between mid-May and October, with deaths returning to average baseline levels through November.
Even this curve was noted by InvoCare. In good news for the group - and less positive news for the living - the company reports "volume metrics have been slowly recovering over Q4 with funeral case volume down 3% over the course of the year."
Despite a challenging year, the company says it is "nevertheless confident about the longterm potential of this business with future growth underpinned by population and ageing trends in its markets".