The Hershey (HSY) Raised to “Hold” at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of The Hershey (NYSE:HSY) from a sell rating to a hold rating in a report released on Monday.

According to Zacks, “Growth in its core brands, successful innovation work in favor of Hershey. The company expects innovation to help it achieve its long-term net sales growth target of 2% to 4%. Also, company’s productivity improvements and cost savings initiatives are likely to drive growth. However, cost pressures weigh on margins. Gross margin declined 260 bps in the first quarter due to unfavorable sales mix, higher freight and logistics costs as well as incremental investments in trade and packaging. Also, the industry is experiencing changes in consumer preference which is marring growth prospects of companies like Hershey. Meanwhile, shares have outperformed the industry in the past year and earnings estimates for 2018 and 2019 decreased over the last 60 days.”

A number of other brokerages have also weighed in on HSY. Royal Bank of Canada reiterated a hold rating and set a $120.00 price objective on shares of The Hershey in a report on Tuesday, January 30th. Susquehanna Bancshares reiterated a neutral rating and set a $110.00 price objective (up previously from $108.00) on shares of The Hershey in a report on Tuesday, January 30th. Barclays decreased their price objective on shares of The Hershey from $110.00 to $107.00 and set an equal weight rating for the company in a report on Friday, February 2nd. Morgan Stanley decreased their price objective on shares of The Hershey from $105.00 to $100.00 and set an underweight rating for the company in a report on Friday, February 2nd. Finally, Credit Suisse Group lowered shares of The Hershey from an outperform rating to a neutral rating and decreased their price objective for the company from $129.00 to $115.00 in a report on Friday, February 2nd. Six research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, eleven have given a hold rating and two have issued a buy rating to the company’s stock. The Hershey currently has a consensus rating of Hold and an average price target of $103.71.

Shares of HSY opened at $92.10 on Monday. The Hershey has a 1-year low of $89.10 and a 1-year high of $116.49. The stock has a market cap of $19.27 billion, a P/E ratio of 19.35, a P/E/G ratio of 2.32 and a beta of 0.34. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 2.08, a current ratio of 0.61 and a quick ratio of 0.40.

The Hershey (NYSE:HSY) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, April 26th. The company reported $1.41 earnings per share for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.40 by $0.01. The Hershey had a net margin of 13.25% and a return on equity of 113.86%. The company had revenue of $1.97 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $1.94 billion. During the same quarter last year, the business posted $1.31 EPS. The firm’s revenue for the quarter was up 4.9% on a year-over-year basis. research analysts forecast that The Hershey will post 5.34 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, June 15th. Stockholders of record on Friday, May 25th will be issued a $0.656 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Thursday, May 24th. This represents a $2.62 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.85%. The Hershey’s dividend payout ratio is currently 55.04%.

Several large investors have recently bought and sold shares of the company. Allianz Asset Management GmbH raised its holdings in shares of The Hershey by 456.7% in the 1st quarter. Allianz Asset Management GmbH now owns 142,689 shares of the company’s stock valued at $14,120,000 after purchasing an additional 117,056 shares in the last quarter. Amalgamated Bank raised its stake in shares of The Hershey by 9.7% during the 1st quarter. Amalgamated Bank now owns 19,874 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,967,000 after acquiring an additional 1,751 shares in the last quarter. Tikehau Investment Management bought a new position in shares of The Hershey during the 1st quarter worth approximately $9,828,000. CIBC World Markets Inc. raised its stake in shares of The Hershey by 548.4% during the 1st quarter. CIBC World Markets Inc. now owns 14,129 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,398,000 after acquiring an additional 11,950 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Xact Kapitalforvaltning AB raised its stake in shares of The Hershey by 6.0% during the 1st quarter. Xact Kapitalforvaltning AB now owns 21,340 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,112,000 after acquiring an additional 1,207 shares in the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 54.00% of the company’s stock.

The Hershey Company Profile

The Hershey Company, together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells confectionery products. The company operates through two segments, North America; and International and Other. It offers chocolate and non-chocolate confectionery products; gum and mint refreshment products comprising mints, chewing gums, and bubble gums; pantry items, such as baking ingredients, toppings, beverages, and sundae syrups; and snack items, including spreads, meat snacks, bars and snack bites, mixes, popcorn and protein bars, and cookies.

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