Today The Whole Foods Market, Inc. (WFM) Cut to “Sell” at Zacks Investment Research

Today The Whole Foods Market, Inc. (WFM) Cut to “Sell” at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a report released on Friday.

According to Zacks, “Whole Foods is revamping its pricing strategy and concentrating on value offerings. It has launched a new store concept to target millennials and stave off competition that has been hurting its performance. In the past one year, the stock has underperformed the industry. More and more companies are expanding their presence in the Organic & Natural food business. This may dent sales and margins. Comps declined for the fifth quarter in row. Comps fell 2.6% in fourth-quarter fiscal 2016 and 1.6% during the first five weeks of first-quarter fiscal 2017. Nevertheless, the company is trying to spur sales through store openings, adoption of digital route and home delivery services. Sales rose 1.7% but came marginally below the estimate during the quarter. Management now projects sales growth of 2.5–4.5% for fiscal 2017 and expects comps to be flat to down 2%. The company envisions earnings per share of $1.42 or more for the fiscal year.”

A number of other equities research analysts also recently weighed in on the company. Bank of America Corporation downgraded Whole Foods Market from a neutral rating to an underperform rating and set a $25.00 price target for the company. in a report on Friday, November 4th. Barclays PLC started coverage on Whole Foods Market in a research report on Thursday, September 22nd. They set an equal weight rating and a $30.00 price objective for the company. Vetr lowered Whole Foods Market from a hold rating to a sell rating and set a $29.97 price objective for the company. in a research report on Tuesday, November 15th. Deutsche Bank AG restated a hold rating and set a $29.00 price objective (down previously from $32.00) on shares of Whole Foods Market in a research report on Thursday, November 3rd. Finally, Oppenheimer Holdings, Inc. restated an outperform rating and set a $35.00 price objective on shares of Whole Foods Market in a research report on Wednesday, November 2nd. Seven research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, fifteen have assigned a hold rating and six have assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. Whole Foods Market has a consensus rating of Hold and an average target price of $30.27.

Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM) opened at 30.46 on Friday. Whole Foods Market has a 52-week low of $27.67 and a 52-week high of $35.58. The firm has a 50-day moving average price of $31.20 and a 200 day moving average price of $30.37. The stock has a market cap of $9.70 billion, a PE ratio of 19.65 and a beta of 0.78.

Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Wednesday, November 2nd. The company reported $0.28 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.24 by $0.04. Whole Foods Market had a return on equity of 15.65% and a net margin of 3.22%. The business earned $3.50 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $26.30 million. During the same period in the previous year, the business earned $0.24 EPS. The business’s quarterly revenue was up 1.7% on a year-over-year basis. Equities analysts anticipate that Whole Foods Market will post $1.45 earnings per share for the current year.

The company also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, January 24th. Shareholders of record on Friday, January 13th were paid a $0.14 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Wednesday, January 11th. This represents a $0.56 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 1.84%. This is an increase from Whole Foods Market’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.14. Whole Foods Market’s payout ratio is 36.13%.

In other news, insider Jeff Turnas sold 4,400 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, November 11th. The stock was sold at an average price of $30.21, for a total transaction of $132,924.00. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now owns 6,792 shares in the company, valued at approximately $205,186.32. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, CFO Glenda J. Flanagan sold 4,592 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, December 14th. The stock was sold at an average price of $31.37, for a total value of $144,051.04. Following the sale, the chief financial officer now owns 216,590 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $6,794,428.30. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold 10,738 shares of company stock worth $331,611 in the last 90 days. Corporate insiders own 1.30% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. BlackRock Advisors LLC increased its stake in shares of Whole Foods Market by 184.5% in the third quarter. BlackRock Advisors LLC now owns 3,922,163 shares of the company’s stock valued at $111,193,000 after buying an additional 2,543,384 shares during the last quarter. Morgan Stanley increased its stake in shares of Whole Foods Market by 85.8% in the third quarter. Morgan Stanley now owns 4,662,898 shares of the company’s stock valued at $132,192,000 after buying an additional 2,152,964 shares during the last quarter. Russell Investments Group Ltd. acquired a new stake in shares of Whole Foods Market during the fourth quarter valued at $48,352,000. Victory Capital Management Inc. increased its stake in shares of Whole Foods Market by 91.4% in the third quarter. Victory Capital Management Inc. now owns 2,803,770 shares of the company’s stock valued at $79,488,000 after buying an additional 1,338,802 shares during the last quarter. Finally, State of New Jersey Common Pension Fund D increased its stake in shares of Whole Foods Market by 750.0% in the third quarter. State of New Jersey Common Pension Fund D now owns 1,360,000 shares of the company’s stock valued at $38,556,000 after buying an additional 1,200,000 shares during the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 84.70% of the company’s stock.

About Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market, Inc is engaged in operating natural and organic foods supermarkets. The Company’s brands include Allegro Coffee, Whole Foods Market, Whole Paws and Engine 2 Plant-Strong. As of April 10, 2016, the Company operated 441 stores, which include 421 stores in 42 states in the United States and the District of Columbia, 11 stores in Canada, and 9 stores in the United Kingdom.

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