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Le Freak, C'est Chic: 13 Stocks Eerily Perfect for Halloween


Boneyards, body parts, spirits, and haunted houses. You can invest in them all.

UK-based Dignity (LON:DTY) operates 616 funeral locations throughout the UK and 35 crematoria in the UK and Scotland. This company is not affiliated with the "Dignity Memorial Network" of 16,000 funeral, cremation, and cemetery providers in the US and Canada. In September, Franklin Templeton Investments, a division of Franklin Resources (NYSE:BEN), acquired sufficient shares of the $825.13 million market cap firm to become a beneficial owner, with 5.40% of the company's voting rights. Dignity is in the Franklin World Perspectives Fund and was cited in a letter to investors as one of the funds' two best UK contributors.

Stewart Enterprises (NASDAQ:STEI), the second largest death care provider in the US, is known for how efficiently it manages funerals and burials. One source said the average funeral home performs 110 to 150 burials per year while Stewart performs about 265 to 320 burials per year per location. The $699.3 million market cap company owns 218 funeral homes and 141 cemeteries (48% with funeral home onsite). The company is not only efficient in death care, but in document retention. As a direct result of Hurricane Katrina -- during which tens of thousands of documents at the company's New Orleans Records Management Center were submerged for over a week, costing the company $1.5 million in recovery and restoration expenses -- the company began digitizing its records. To quote a Stewart Enterprises support manager discussing the project, "With cemetery records, record-keeping is literally eternal."

StoneMor Partners (NYSE:STON) is the second largest cemetery provider and third largest death care provider in the US. According to its most recent SEC filing, it owned or operated 272 cemeteries, and 71 funeral homes. However, the same day as this SEC filing, the company announced it had completed an acquisition that appeared to add eight funeral homes, four cemeteries, and two cremation facilities to its portfolio. StoneMor is the only publicly traded death care company structured as a master limited partnership, or MLP. (For more information on MLPs, see Mastering the MLP Domain.) In another distinction, it switched its listing from the NASDAQ to the NYSE last December. Interestingly, five of the $467.35 million market cap company's senior managers all worked for the Loewen Group, another company in the funeral space, which filed for bankruptcy in June 1999 and has the dubious distinction of being a case study in bad management taught at the NYU Stern School of Business. (Loewen's assets were acquired by Alderwoods Group, which in turn was acquired by Services Corporation International.)

Carriage Services (NYSE:CSV) operates 163 funeral homes and 32 cemeteries in the US. The $185.25 million market cap company is a major provider of pre-paid funerals and burials, allowing customers to choose their grave site, casket, and level of service at funerals. According to the Carriage Services website, the company's theme for 2012 is "A New Beginning." It has acquired 13 funeral homes and one cemetery in the last 12 months.
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