Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a report published on Tuesday. The brokerage currently has $153.00 target price on the basic materials company’s stock.
According to Zacks, “Over the past year, Ecolab’s stock has outperformed the broader industry. Ecolab has been gaining prominence lately, thanks to Global-Industrial segmental growth in Europe, North America and Latin America. Strength in the Global Institutional segment led by growth in the Specialty and Healthcare business lines is also a positive. A robust product portfolio and expanding customer base is likely to drive organic sales over the long haul. On the flipside, Ecolab ended the fourth quarter on an unfavorable note, missing the Estimate on both the counts. Despite strength in Pest Elimination business, the Other segment declined year over year on reported basis. Ecolab operates in highly competitive markets, which might mar prospects over the long haul. We believe that volatility in foreign currency exchange rates will remain a significant headwind for the company. Ecolab faces pricing pressure in the Energy segment which is likely to hurt profits.”
Several other research firms have also weighed in on ECL. Boenning Scattergood reiterated a buy rating on shares of Ecolab in a research note on Monday, January 22nd. Royal Bank of Canada reiterated a buy rating on shares of Ecolab in a research note on Friday, January 19th. Credit Suisse Group boosted their target price on shares of Ecolab from $129.00 to $137.00 and gave the company a neutral rating in a research note on Wednesday, January 24th. Stifel Nicolaus boosted their target price on shares of Ecolab from $140.00 to $153.00 and gave the company a hold rating in a research note on Wednesday, January 24th. Finally, Robert W. Baird lowered their target price on shares of Ecolab from $144.00 to $143.00 and set a neutral rating for the company in a research note on Tuesday, January 23rd. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, ten have assigned a hold rating and eight have given a buy rating to the company. The company presently has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus target price of $140.76.
Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) last posted its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday, February 20th. The basic materials company reported $1.39 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, missing the consensus estimate of $1.40 by ($0.01). The company had revenue of $3.65 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $3.60 billion. Ecolab had a net margin of 10.90% and a return on equity of 19.10%. The company’s revenue was up 8.9% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the company earned $1.25 earnings per share. equities analysts predict that Ecolab will post 5.35 EPS for the current fiscal year.
The company also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Monday, April 16th. Stockholders of record on Tuesday, March 20th will be given a dividend of $0.41 per share. The ex-dividend date is Monday, March 19th. This represents a $1.64 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 1.22%. Ecolab’s dividend payout ratio is currently 31.91%.
In other news, major shareholder William H. Gates III purchased 491,499 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Friday, March 16th. The stock was acquired at an average price of $136.83 per share, for a total transaction of $67,251,808.17. The purchase was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, major shareholder William H. Gates III purchased 694,343 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, March 7th. The shares were purchased at an average price of $132.10 per share, with a total value of $91,722,710.30. The disclosure for this purchase can be found here. Insiders have bought 1,848,529 shares of company stock valued at $248,579,565 in the last 90 days. Insiders own 1.49% of the company’s stock.
Several institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in ECL. Wagner Wealth Management LLC bought a new position in shares of Ecolab during the fourth quarter worth about $112,000. SeaCrest Wealth Management LLC bought a new position in shares of Ecolab during the fourth quarter worth about $125,000. Captrust Financial Advisors bought a new position in shares of Ecolab during the fourth quarter worth about $129,000. Aevitas Wealth Management Inc. bought a new position in shares of Ecolab during the fourth quarter worth about $133,000. Finally, Community Bank N.A. bought a new position in shares of Ecolab during the fourth quarter worth about $140,000. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 78.33% of the company’s stock.
Ecolab Inc provides water, hygiene and energy technologies and services. The Company’s cleaning and sanitizing programs and products, pest elimination services and equipment maintenance and repair services support customers in the foodservice, food and beverage processing, hospitality, healthcare, government and education, retail, textile care and commercial facilities management sectors in over 170 countries.
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