Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research report issued on Friday. The brokerage presently has a $70.00 price target on the stock.
According to Zacks, “Merck’s efforts to expand its pipeline and focus on core areas of expertise are encouraging. New products especially Keytruda should contribute meaningfully to the top-line. Merck has also been pursuing acquisitions and business development deals to boost its pipeline. Merck will also continue to look toward cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom-line. Investor focus will remain on the performance of the company’s hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment, Zepatier, label expansion of Keytruda and business development deals. Estimates have been moving up lately ahead of the company’s Q3 earnings release. The company has a positive record of earnings surprises in recent quarters. However, the top-line will remain under pressure mainly due to increased competition as well as generic competition. “
A number of other equities research analysts have also recently commented on the company. Citigroup Inc. reissued a “neutral” rating and issued a $65.00 target price on shares of Merck & Co. in a research note on Wednesday, August 10th. BMO Capital Markets raised Merck & Co. from a “market perform” rating to an “outperform” rating and increased their target price for the stock from $62.00 to $72.00 in a research note on Friday, August 5th. Morgan Stanley set a $60.00 target price on Merck & Co. and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research note on Tuesday, September 13th. Bank of America Corp. raised Merck & Co. from a “neutral” rating to a “buy” rating and increased their target price for the stock from $57.00 to $70.00 in a research note on Thursday, October 13th. Finally, Vetr raised Merck & Co. from a “sell” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $62.26 target price on the stock in a research note on Monday, July 4th. Thirteen analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and nine have issued a buy rating to the company. The stock currently has a consensus rating of “Hold” and an average target price of €65.58 ($72.06).
Shares of Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) opened at 61.52 on Friday. The company has a 50-day moving average price of $62.53 and a 200 day moving average price of $58.84. Merck & Co. has a one year low of $47.97 and a one year high of $64.86. The stock has a market cap of $170.12 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 33.75 and a beta of 0.68.
Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) last released its earnings results on Friday, July 29th. The company reported $0.93 EPS for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.91 by $0.02. Merck & Co. had a return on equity of 23.41% and a net margin of 13.01%. The firm had revenue of $9.84 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $9.79 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the firm posted $0.86 earnings per share. The company’s quarterly revenue was up .6% on a year-over-year basis. Equities research analysts expect that Merck & Co. will post $3.75 earnings per share for the current year.
The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, October 7th. Investors of record on Thursday, September 15th were given a dividend of $0.46 per share. This represents a $1.84 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.99%. The ex-dividend date was Tuesday, September 13th. Merck & Co.’s dividend payout ratio is currently 101.10%.
In other Merck & Co. news, insider Weir Mirian M. Graddick sold 40,800 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, October 3rd. The stock was sold at an average price of €62.07 ($68.21), for a total transaction of €2,532,456.00 ($2,782,918.68). Following the completion of the transaction, the insider now owns 128,973 shares in the company, valued at approximately €8,005,354.11 ($8,797,092.43). The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through this link. Also, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 39,200 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, September 1st. The shares were sold at an average price of €62.61 ($68.80), for a total value of €2,454,312.00 ($2,697,046.15). Following the transaction, the executive vice president now owns 39,200 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately €2,454,312 ($2,697,046.15). The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Corporate insiders own 0.05% of the company’s stock.
Institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the stock. Vanguard Group Inc. boosted its position in Merck & Co. by 1.9% in the second quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 174,819,694 shares of the company’s stock valued at $10,071,362,000 after buying an additional 3,242,254 shares in the last quarter. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company N.A. boosted its position in Merck & Co. by 0.7% in the second quarter. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company N.A. now owns 74,363,785 shares of the company’s stock valued at $4,284,098,000 after buying an additional 535,407 shares in the last quarter. BlackRock Fund Advisors boosted its position in Merck & Co. by 4.0% in the second quarter. BlackRock Fund Advisors now owns 44,732,600 shares of the company’s stock valued at $2,577,045,000 after buying an additional 1,701,520 shares in the last quarter. BlackRock Group LTD boosted its position in Merck & Co. by 2.0% in the first quarter. BlackRock Group LTD now owns 27,068,748 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,432,206,000 after buying an additional 525,220 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Massachusetts Financial Services Co. MA boosted its position in Merck & Co. by 6.2% in the second quarter. Massachusetts Financial Services Co. MA now owns 26,224,184 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,510,776,000 after buying an additional 1,531,565 shares in the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 72.93% of the company’s stock.
About Merck & Co.
Merck & Co, Inc is a global healthcare company. The Company offers health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, which it markets directly and through its joint ventures. It operates through one segment, Pharmaceutical. The Company’s Pharmaceutical segment includes human health pharmaceutical and vaccine products marketed either directly by the Company or through joint ventures.
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