California Public Employees Retirement System lifted its holdings in First Merchants Co. (NASDAQ:FRME) by 1.3% in the 4th quarter, according to its most recent Form 13F filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The fund owned 131,665 shares of the bank’s stock after purchasing an additional 1,753 shares during the quarter. California Public Employees Retirement System’s holdings in First Merchants were worth $5,538,000 as of its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Several other hedge funds have also bought and sold shares of the company. Teacher Retirement System of Texas purchased a new position in shares of First Merchants in the fourth quarter worth $705,000. Boston Partners raised its stake in shares of First Merchants by 9.2% in the fourth quarter. Boston Partners now owns 536,990 shares of the bank’s stock worth $22,585,000 after purchasing an additional 45,031 shares during the last quarter. Assenagon Asset Management S.A. purchased a new position in shares of First Merchants in the fourth quarter worth $1,645,000. Atlas Brown Inc. purchased a new position in shares of First Merchants in the fourth quarter worth $583,000. Finally, Fisher Asset Management LLC raised its stake in shares of First Merchants by 9.7% in the fourth quarter. Fisher Asset Management LLC now owns 81,315 shares of the bank’s stock worth $3,420,000 after purchasing an additional 7,158 shares during the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 69.82% of the company’s stock.
In related news, insider Michael J. Stewart sold 2,219 shares of First Merchants stock in a transaction on Monday, February 26th. The stock was sold at an average price of $42.60, for a total value of $94,529.40. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now owns 55,706 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $2,373,075.60. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, Director Terry L. Walker purchased 3,176 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction on Friday, December 15th. The shares were bought at an average cost of $42.69 per share, with a total value of $135,583.44. The disclosure for this purchase can be found here. Insiders purchased 3,227 shares of company stock valued at $137,744 in the last ninety days. 1.41% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.
First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last issued its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, January 25th. The bank reported $0.61 EPS for the quarter, hitting the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.61. First Merchants had a return on equity of 9.47% and a net margin of 24.90%. The company had revenue of $97.83 million during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $98.30 million. analysts forecast that First Merchants Co. will post 2.97 EPS for the current fiscal year.
The company also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, March 16th. Investors of record on Friday, March 2nd will be issued a $0.18 dividend. This represents a $0.72 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 1.63%. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, March 1st. First Merchants’s payout ratio is currently 32.29%.
Several research firms have recently weighed in on FRME. BidaskClub upgraded First Merchants from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Friday. Zacks Investment Research cut First Merchants from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Tuesday, February 27th. FIG Partners restated a “market-perform” rating on shares of First Merchants in a research note on Monday, January 29th. Piper Jaffray Companies restated a “hold” rating and issued a $48.00 price target on shares of First Merchants in a research note on Sunday, January 28th. Finally, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods restated a “buy” rating and issued a $52.00 price target on shares of First Merchants in a research note on Thursday, January 25th. Three analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and two have given a buy rating to the company. The stock presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $49.67.
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About First Merchants
First Merchants Corporation is a financial holding company. The Company has a bank charter, First Merchants Bank (the Bank), which is opened for business in Muncie, Indiana. It operates through community banking business segment. The Bank also operates Lafayette Bank and Trust, and First Merchants Private Wealth Advisors (each as a division of First Merchants Bank).
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