Stewart shareholders approve selling company

Shareholders of Stewart Enterprises Inc. have approved a $1.13 billion acquisition of the Jefferson-based funeral and cemetery company by Service Corporation International in Houston.

Stewart said over 99 percent of votes cast were in favor of the proposal, which represented more than 83 percent of total voting power. The vote took place at a special meeting of shareholders Tuesday.

Founded in 1910, Stewart Enterprises owns and operates 217 funeral homes and 141 cemeteries in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Service Corporation has said the combined company will operate 1,655 funeral homes and 515 cemeteries in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, about a 13 percent market share in a highly fragmented industry.

Officials have acknowledged that the acquisition will inevitably bring some job cuts to Stewart’s 400-employee corporate headquarters in Jefferson to eliminate staff redundancies with SCI.

However, the majority of Stewart’s 4,800 employees likely would be retained, since most are in field offices that would be new territory for SCI or are in offices that might have to be sold to satisfy regulators’ concerns about SCI’s dominance in a market.