Zacks Investment Research Upgrades Aflac Incorporated (AFL) to “Buy”

Aflac Incorporated (NYSE:AFL) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note issued to investors on Thursday. The firm presently has a $94.00 price target on the financial services provider’s stock. Zacks Investment Research‘s target price points to a potential upside of 11.98% from the company’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “Aflac shares have outperformed its industry year to date. Efforts to increase agent productivity, emphasis on sale of third-sector products, pull back on sale of first-sector products, and the introduction of new products are likely to drive long-term growth. Its strong capital position enables it to buy back shares and increase dividend payouts. Its U.S segment continues to perform strongly and will continue as company has undertaken a number of growth initiatives in this business. A favorable earnings guidance against the back drop of continued challenges in its Japan business instills our confidence in the company. Also, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2017 and 2018 moved up 2.3% and 0.7%, respectively, in the last 60 days.”

A number of other brokerages have also weighed in on AFL. ValuEngine upgraded shares of Aflac from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a report on Tuesday, August 1st. Barclays PLC lifted their price target on shares of Aflac from $73.00 to $79.00 and gave the company an “equal weight” rating in a report on Friday, August 11th. Bank of America Corporation lowered shares of Aflac from a “neutral” rating to an “underperform” rating in a report on Friday, September 8th. UBS AG reiterated an “overweight” rating on shares of Aflac in a report on Thursday, August 24th. Finally, BidaskClub lowered shares of Aflac from a “sell” rating to a “strong sell” rating in a report on Tuesday, August 1st. Four research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, six have assigned a hold rating and six have assigned a buy rating to the company. The stock currently has an average rating of “Hold” and a consensus target price of $77.41.

Shares of Aflac (AFL) opened at 83.94 on Thursday. The firm has a 50-day moving average price of $81.36 and a 200-day moving average price of $76.68. The stock has a market cap of $33.18 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 12.69 and a beta of 0.97. Aflac has a 12 month low of $66.50 and a 12 month high of $84.05.

Aflac (NYSE:AFL) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, July 27th. The financial services provider reported $1.83 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $1.63 by $0.20. The company had revenue of $5.43 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $5.48 billion. Aflac had a net margin of 11.98% and a return on equity of 13.09%. Aflac’s revenue for the quarter was down .2% on a year-over-year basis. During the same quarter last year, the business earned $1.65 EPS. Equities analysts expect that Aflac will post $6.69 EPS for the current fiscal year.

Aflac announced that its board has initiated a stock buyback program on Tuesday, August 8th that permits the company to buyback 40,000,000 outstanding shares. This buyback authorization permits the financial services provider to buy shares of its stock through open market purchases. Shares buyback programs are often a sign that the company’s board of directors believes its stock is undervalued.

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In related news, President Kriss Cloninger III sold 3,500 shares of Aflac stock in a transaction on Friday, August 4th. The shares were sold at an average price of $81.06, for a total transaction of $283,710.00. Following the sale, the president now owns 253,196 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $20,524,067.76. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through this link. Also, insider Teresa L. White sold 11,314 shares of Aflac stock in a transaction on Tuesday, June 27th. The stock was sold at an average price of $78.01, for a total transaction of $882,605.14. Following the sale, the insider now directly owns 26,847 shares in the company, valued at approximately $2,094,334.47. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold a total of 42,593 shares of company stock worth $3,494,564 in the last ninety days. 3.00% of the stock is currently owned by insiders.

A number of institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in AFL. BlackRock Inc. increased its stake in Aflac by 1,750.9% during the 1st quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 23,849,668 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $1,727,193,000 after buying an additional 22,561,116 shares during the period. AJO LP increased its stake in Aflac by 157.8% during the 2nd quarter. AJO LP now owns 3,483,353 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $270,587,000 after buying an additional 2,132,414 shares during the period. Balyasny Asset Management LLC increased its stake in Aflac by 1,351.2% during the 2nd quarter. Balyasny Asset Management LLC now owns 1,311,615 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $101,886,000 after buying an additional 1,221,231 shares during the period. Vanguard Group Inc. increased its stake in Aflac by 3.4% during the 1st quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 31,980,927 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $2,316,059,000 after buying an additional 1,048,415 shares during the period. Finally, Coho Partners Ltd. increased its stake in Aflac by 85.3% during the 2nd quarter. Coho Partners Ltd. now owns 2,186,934 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $169,881,000 after buying an additional 1,006,477 shares during the period. 65.63% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Aflac Company Profile

Aflac Incorporated is a business holding company. The Company is involved in supplemental health and life insurance, which is marketed and administered through its subsidiary, American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (Aflac). The Company’s insurance business consists of two segments: Aflac Japan and Aflac U.S.

Analyst Recommendations for Aflac (NYSE:AFL)

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