Shares of Stewart Enterprises, which runs

funeral homes and cemeteries, plummeted today after rival Service

Corporation International withdrew a takeover offer.

Houston-based Service said in a statement late last night it

rejected Stewart's demand that Service finance the entire deal,

that Service assume all responsibility and risk for gaining

regulatory approval and raise its $11-per-share offer for the

Jefferson, Louisiana-based company.

The two sides had been in talks since July 23rd after Stewart

rejected a previous offer of $9.50 a share on July 14th.

Stewart, in a news release early today, responded that it "was

surprised and disappointed by the unexpected withdrawal." The

company also said it "will continue to assess all of our

alternatives" and remains open to doing a deal with Service.

Stewart owns 221 funeral homes and 139 cemeteries in the United

States and Puerto Rico.

Service owns 1,300 funeral homes and 350 cemeteries in the

United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. In 2006, Service paid $1.2

billion to acquire Alderwoods Group, another major chain.