Officials: Settlement lets SCI buy Vegas mortuary

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2009 5:20 PM

The nation's largest funeral services company has resolved antitrust issues with the Nevada state attorney general and plans to proceed with the purchase of a large Las Vegas-area mortuary business, officials said Wednesday.

Service Corp. International of Houston agreed to sell assets, including one Las Vegas-based mortuary company, in order to acquire the biggest southern Nevada funeral services firm, Palm Mortuary Inc., according to company and state attorney general's representatives.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement that without the sale of Davis Funeral Home and Memorial Park and another SCI-owned Davis funeral home, the company would have a "near-monopoly" with 76 percent of the Las Vegas funeral market and control all the region's cemeteries.

"Cemeteries involve major purchases, typically at an extremely difficult time when consumers are most vulnerable," Masto said. "It is critical to preserve competition in the cemetery market for local Las Vegas families."

The settlement awaits approval by a U.S. District Court judge in Las Vegas. It calls for SCI, within 90 days of acquiring Palm Mortuary, to sell the Davis properties to a buyer approved by the attorney general.

Masto said the Davis businesses were third in the region in market share, at 16 percent.

"Subject to approval, we'll move forward," SCI spokeswoman Lisa Marshall said. "We're real pleased. Palm has a wonderful reputation in the market."

Palm Mortuary, an independent business, has become the largest funeral services firm in southern Nevada. The metropolitan Las Vegas area has almost 2 million of the state's 2.7 million residents.

SCI, a publicly traded company, owns and operates 1,250 funeral homes and 364 cemeteries in the U.S. and Canada. Shares rose 2 cents to close at $7.75 on Wednesday.