Today: The Merck & Co. (MRK) Upgraded to Buy by Zacks Investment Research

The Merck & Co. (MRK) Upgraded to Buy by Zacks Investment Research

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note issued on Friday. The firm 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. “

Other analysts also recently issued research reports about the company. Vetr raised Merck & Co. from a “sell” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $62.26 price objective on the stock in a research note on Monday, July 4th. Argus reissued a “buy” rating and issued a $65.00 price objective on shares of Merck & Co. in a research note on Wednesday, September 14th. Bank of America Corp. raised Merck & Co. from a “neutral” rating to a “buy” rating and boosted their price objective for the stock from $57.00 to $70.00 in a research note on Thursday. Deutsche Bank AG boosted their price objective on Merck & Co. from $58.00 to $59.00 and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research note on Monday, August 8th. Finally, Jefferies Group boosted their price objective on Merck & Co. from $53.00 to $57.00 and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research note on Monday, August 8th. Twelve analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and ten have assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. Merck & Co. presently has a consensus rating of “Hold” and a consensus price target of €65.05 ($72.28).

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) opened at 62.51 on Friday. Merck & Co. has a 12 month low of $47.97 and a 12 month high of $64.86. The stock has a 50 day moving average price of $62.57 and a 200-day moving average price of $58.63. The stock has a market cap of $172.85 billion, a PE ratio of 34.29 and a beta of 0.68.

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Friday, July 29th. The company reported $0.93 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.91 by $0.02. Merck & Co. had a return on equity of 23.41% and a net margin of 13.01%. The company earned $9.84 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $9.79 billion. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm posted $0.86 EPS. The firm’s quarterly revenue was up .6% on a year-over-year basis. On average, analysts expect that Merck & Co. will post $3.75 EPS 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 paid a dividend of $0.46 per share. The ex-dividend date was Tuesday, September 13th. This represents a $1.84 annualized dividend and a yield of 2.94%. Merck & Co.’s payout ratio is 101.10%.

In other Merck & Co. news, Chairman Kenneth C. Frazier sold 392,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, August 5th. The stock was sold at an average price of €61.81 ($68.68), for a total value of €24,229,520.00 ($26,921,688.89). Following the completion of the transaction, the chairman now owns 760,877 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately €47,029,807.37 ($52,255,341.52). The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available at this hyperlink. Also, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 39,200 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, September 1st. The shares were sold at an average price of €62.61 ($69.57), for a total value of €2,454,312.00 ($2,727,013.33). Following the completion of the transaction, the executive vice president now directly owns 39,200 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately €2,454,312 ($2,727,013.33). The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Corporate insiders own 0.05% of the company’s stock.

A number of institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of MRK. Raymond James Trust N.A. boosted its position in Merck & Co. by 3.3% in the second quarter. Raymond James Trust N.A. now owns 337,745 shares of the company’s stock valued at $19,457,000 after buying an additional 10,865 shares during the period. Emerald Acquisition Ltd. purchased a new position in Merck & Co. during the second quarter valued at approximately $274,347,000. Nordea Investment Management AB boosted its position in Merck & Co. by 16.1% in the second quarter. Nordea Investment Management AB now owns 2,411,985 shares of the company’s stock valued at $138,954,000 after buying an additional 334,806 shares during the period. Orbis Allan Gray Ltd purchased a new position in Merck & Co. during the first quarter valued at approximately $239,761,000. Finally, Envestnet Asset Management Inc. boosted its position in Merck & Co. by 7.0% in the first quarter. Envestnet Asset Management Inc. now owns 1,107,242 shares of the company’s stock valued at $58,584,000 after buying an additional 72,808 shares during the period. 72.93% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

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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