Shares of StoneMor Partners L.P. plunged 36% toward a seven-year low in premarket trade Friday, after the company said it will slash its quarterly dividend in half in an effort to enhance liquidity. The cemetery operator said that preliminary data on third-quarter results prompted the general partner and board of directors to cut the the third-quarter cash distribution to 33 cents a share from 66 cents a share a year ago. The company said as part of its effort to re-grow its salesforce, it has recently engaged a national recruiting firm, increased in-house recruiting efforts and hired a national vice president of sales. "The general partner strongly believes that this reduction, while disappointing, will protect and position the partnership to achieve our longer-term expectations for future growth of the business," said Robert Hellman, chairman of the general partner. The stock, which was on track to open at the lowest level since September 2009, has lost 7.2% year to date through Thursday, while the S&P 500 has gained 4.4%.
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