Zacks Investment Research Downgrades PPL (PPL) to Sell

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Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of PPL (NYSE:PPL) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a report issued on Thursday morning.

According to Zacks, “PPL Corporation's operations are subject to stringent emission regulation high debt levels amid rising interest rates and risks of unplanned outage of power plants are some of the headwinds of the company. However, shares of PPL Corporation have outperformed the industry in the past 12 months. The company is poised to gain from its capital investment plan that primarily focuses on infrastructure Projects for generation, transmission and distribution. It has re-established its hedge levels to shield itself from any near-term decline in the GBP. Recent acquisition of Safari Energy could boost its earnings and diverse its revenue stream.”

Several other research analysts have also recently weighed in on the company. Desjardins reaffirmed an average rating and set a $52.00 price objective on shares of PPL in a research report on Monday, January 7th. Royal Bank of Canada cut PPL from an outperform rating to a sector perform rating and upped their price objective for the stock from $32.00 to $33.00 in a research report on Friday, March 8th. They noted that the move was a valuation call. ValuEngine raised PPL from a sell rating to a hold rating in a research report on Wednesday, November 21st. SunTrust Banks reaffirmed a buy rating and set a $35.00 price objective on shares of PPL in a research report on Wednesday, February 13th. Finally, Evercore ISI cut PPL from an outperform rating to an in-line rating in a research report on Thursday, February 7th. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, eight have given a hold rating and two have issued a buy rating to the company’s stock. PPL currently has an average rating of Hold and an average target price of $34.33.

Shares of PPL stock traded up $0.19 during trading hours on Thursday, hitting $32.78. The company’s stock had a trading volume of 48,375 shares, compared to its average volume of 4,754,301. PPL has a 12 month low of $25.30 and a 12 month high of $32.68. The company has a market capitalization of $23.45 billion, a P/E ratio of 13.65, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.67 and a beta of 0.54. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.72, a current ratio of 0.53 and a quick ratio of 0.47.

PPL (NYSE:PPL) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, February 14th. The utilities provider reported $0.52 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.49 by $0.03. PPL had a return on equity of 14.91% and a net margin of 23.47%. The company had revenue of $1.94 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.88 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the company earned $0.55 earnings per share. The company’s revenue for the quarter was up .7% compared to the same quarter last year. On average, equities analysts anticipate that PPL will post 2.43 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Monday, April 1st. Investors of record on Friday, March 8th will be given a dividend of $0.4125 per share. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, March 7th. This is a boost from PPL’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.41. This represents a $1.65 annualized dividend and a yield of 5.03%. PPL’s dividend payout ratio is 68.75%.

In related news, Chairman Paul W. Thompson sold 4,573 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, December 27th. The stock was sold at an average price of $28.25, for a total transaction of $129,187.25. Following the completion of the transaction, the chairman now directly owns 7,419 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $209,586.75. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, Chairman Paul W. Thompson sold 5,637 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, January 23rd. The shares were sold at an average price of $29.91, for a total value of $168,602.67. Following the transaction, the chairman now directly owns 15,897 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $475,479.27. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold 256,997 shares of company stock valued at $8,265,457 over the last three months. Insiders own 0.38% of the company’s stock.

A number of hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of the stock. BlackRock Inc. boosted its position in PPL by 5.9% during the fourth quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 62,237,939 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $1,763,201,000 after purchasing an additional 3,475,992 shares during the last quarter. FMR LLC lifted its position in shares of PPL by 3.1% in the third quarter. FMR LLC now owns 48,751,387 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $1,426,465,000 after buying an additional 1,474,816 shares during the last quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp lifted its position in shares of PPL by 58.2% in the third quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp now owns 17,289,874 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $505,902,000 after buying an additional 6,361,091 shares during the last quarter. Federated Investors Inc. PA lifted its position in shares of PPL by 1.1% in the third quarter. Federated Investors Inc. PA now owns 14,829,100 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $433,899,000 after buying an additional 156,763 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Geode Capital Management LLC lifted its position in shares of PPL by 12.2% in the fourth quarter. Geode Capital Management LLC now owns 10,366,038 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $293,399,000 after buying an additional 1,129,588 shares during the last quarter. 73.89% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

PPL Company Profile

PPL Corporation, a utility holding company, delivers electricity and natural gas in the United States and the United Kingdom. The company operates through three segments: U.K. Regulated, Kentucky Regulated, and Pennsylvania Regulated. It serves approximately 414,000 electric and 328,000 natural gas customers in Louisville and adjacent areas in Kentucky; 527,000 electric customers in central, southeastern, and western Kentucky; and 28,000 electric customers in 5 counties in southwestern Virginia.

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