For other uses of the acronym SCI, see SCI
Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI) is North America’s largest provider of end-of-life arrangements and services. Based in Houston, Texas, United States, SCI operates more than 1500 funeral homes and 400 cemeteries in 43 states, eight Canadian provinces, and Puerto Rico.
Robert L. Waltrip, a licensed funeral director who grew up in his family’s funeral business, founded the company in 1962. SCI began as a small network of funeral homes and cemeteries in the Houston area.
As SCI grew its offshore presence, it continued to acquire businesses in North America—a marketplace that, by the late 1990s, had become extremely competitive among companies seeking to buy death care businesses. SCI, Alderwoods Group and Stewart Enterprises emerged from this period as the three largest companies in the industry. On December 31, 1999, SCI owned and operated 3,823 funeral service locations, 525 cemeteries, 198 crematoria and two insurance operations located in 20 countries on five continents.
In 1999, SCI also introduced Dignity Memorial, the first transcontinental brand of death care services and products in North America. By unifying its network of funeral homes and cemeteries under one brand name, SCI believed it could establish recognizable and communicable brand values.
In 2000, poor market conditions forced SCI to reevaluate operations. While foreign operations had once shown promise, nearly 70 percent of SCI’s revenue was generated by operations in the United States and Canada. The company decided to divest many of its offshore businesses, in addition to many North American funeral homes and cemeteries.
Between 2002 and 2006, SCI reduced its net debt (total debt minus cash) by more than $1.0 billion, increased operating cash flow, and simplified its field management organization to enhance efficiency, performance, and accountability. It also changed business and sales processes, tightened internal controls, strengthened corporate governance standards, and established the a new training and development system. For its shareholders, SCI returned value through more than $335 million in share repurchases, and it resumed payment of a regular quarterly dividend in early 2005, the first since 1999.
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