Southern (SO) Stock Rating Lowered by Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Southern (NYSE:SO) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a report released on Wednesday, December 27th.

According to Zacks, “SO is one of the largest and best-managed electric utility holding companies in the U.S. with good rate base growth and constructive regulation. We expect it to generate steady earnings and dividend growth in the coming years through its long-term power contracts. Additionally, the utility's $12 billion AGL Resources has significantly increased its customer base and diversified its offerings. Further, the company’s Vogtle Project also received approval from Georgia PSC. However, the decision to continue with the project may increase the credit risk of the company. As it is , the cost overrun issues over its Vogtle and Kemper projects continue to weigh on SO’s already weak financials. High leverage of over 60% poses major roadblock in the growth of the company. Thus we take a cautious stance on the prospects of the stock.”

Other research analysts have also recently issued reports about the stock. Royal Bank of Canada upgraded shares of Southern from a sector perform rating to an outperform rating and set a $53.00 price target on the stock in a research report on Friday, September 29th. Jefferies Group reissued a buy rating and set a $56.00 price objective (up previously from $55.00) on shares of Southern in a research note on Tuesday, September 12th. Mizuho reissued a buy rating and set a $55.00 price objective on shares of Southern in a research note on Friday, December 8th. Bank of America reissued an underperform rating and set a $51.00 price objective on shares of Southern in a research note on Tuesday, October 24th. Finally, Citigroup reissued a sell rating and set a $44.00 price objective (up previously from $43.00) on shares of Southern in a research note on Tuesday, October 3rd. Five equities research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, seven have issued a hold rating and seven have given a buy rating to the stock. Southern has an average rating of Hold and a consensus target price of $51.20.

Southern (NYSE SO) opened at $44.84 on Wednesday. Southern has a 52-week low of $44.44 and a 52-week high of $53.51. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.73, a current ratio of 0.73 and a quick ratio of 0.57. The firm has a market cap of $45,414.17, a P/E ratio of 80.07, a P/E/G ratio of 3.34 and a beta of 0.14.

Southern (NYSE:SO) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Wednesday, November 1st. The utilities provider reported $1.12 EPS for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.08 by $0.04. Southern had a net margin of 2.59% and a return on equity of 10.81%. The business had revenue of $6.20 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $6.16 billion. During the same period last year, the business earned $1.27 earnings per share. The business’s quarterly revenue was down 1.0% on a year-over-year basis. analysts anticipate that Southern will post 2.96 EPS for the current year.

In other Southern news, EVP Christopher C. Womack sold 46,641 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Thursday, November 2nd. The stock was sold at an average price of $53.00, for a total transaction of $2,471,973.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the executive vice president now owns 56,799 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $3,010,347. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through this link. Also, VP James Y. Kerr II sold 25,000 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Friday, October 20th. The shares were sold at an average price of $52.16, for a total value of $1,304,000.00. Following the transaction, the vice president now owns 26,000 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $1,356,160. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold 128,662 shares of company stock valued at $6,772,438 in the last three months. Insiders own 1.00% of the company’s stock.

Several large investors have recently modified their holdings of the company. Chicago Partners Investment Group LLC bought a new stake in Southern in the 2nd quarter worth about $100,000. Farmers & Merchants Trust Co of Chambersburg PA bought a new stake in Southern in the 3rd quarter worth about $105,000. Monroe Bank & Trust MI increased its holdings in Southern by 17.9% in the 2nd quarter. Monroe Bank & Trust MI now owns 2,300 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $110,000 after buying an additional 350 shares in the last quarter. AlphaMark Advisors LLC increased its holdings in Southern by 0.6% in the 2nd quarter. AlphaMark Advisors LLC now owns 2,363 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $113,000 after buying an additional 14 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Fieldpoint Private Securities LLC bought a new stake in Southern in the 3rd quarter worth about $118,000. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 53.66% of the company’s stock.

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Southern Company Profile

The Southern Company (Southern Company) is a holding company. The Company owns all of the stock of the traditional electric operating companies and the parent entities of Southern Power Company (Southern Power) and Southern Company Gas, and owns other direct and indirect subsidiaries. The Company’s segments include Gas distribution operations, Gas marketing services, Wholesale gas services, Gas midstream operations and All other.

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