The Southern Co. (SO) Upgraded at Zacks Investment Research

The Southern Co. (SO) Upgraded at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Southern Co. (NYSE:SO) from a sell rating to a buy rating in a report issued on Monday morning. Zacks Investment Research currently has $55.00 price objective on the stock.

According to Zacks, “Despite a decline in electric sales, Southern company has maintained its excellent track record of earnings surprise history, beating estimates in each of the last five quarters. One of the largest and best-managed electric utility holding companies in the U.S., SO dominates the power business across the southeastern region. 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 acquisition of AGL Resources has significantly increased its customer base and is expected to help generate more revenues. Sporting a low beta – translating into less volatility – and a reasonable valuation, we see Southern Company as an attractive investment.”

A number of other equities research analysts have also recently issued reports on the stock. RBC Capital Markets reiterated a hold rating and issued a $54.00 price objective on shares of Southern in a report on Wednesday, January 4th. Citigroup Inc. assumed coverage on shares of Southern in a research report on Thursday, December 15th. They set a sell rating and a $44.00 target price for the company. Finally, SunTrust Banks Inc. boosted their target price on shares of Southern from $52.00 to $54.00 and gave the stock a neutral rating in a research report on Monday, September 26th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, ten have issued a hold rating and three have assigned a buy rating to the stock. Southern currently has an average rating of Hold and an average price target of $52.88.

Southern (NYSE:SO) opened at 49.62 on Monday. Southern has a 1-year low of $46.20 and a 1-year high of $54.64. The firm has a market capitalization of $48.63 billion, a P/E ratio of 18.63 and a beta of 0.04. The company has a 50-day moving average price of $48.55 and a 200-day moving average price of $50.74.

Southern (NYSE:SO) last issued its quarterly earnings data on Monday, October 31st. The company reported $1.28 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $1.17 by $0.11. The firm earned $6.26 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $3.41 billion. Southern had a net margin of 14.14% and a return on equity of 12.69%. Southern’s revenue for the quarter was up 16.0% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the company posted $1.17 earnings per share. On average, equities research analysts predict that Southern will post $2.90 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Monday, March 6th. Investors of record on Tuesday, February 21st will be paid a $0.56 dividend. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, February 16th. This represents a $2.24 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 4.51%. Southern’s payout ratio is currently 83.27%.

In related news, CEO William P. Bowers sold 70,680 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Monday, January 9th. The shares were sold at an average price of $48.88, for a total value of $3,454,838.40. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now owns 122,669 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $5,996,060.72. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is accessible through this hyperlink. 1.00% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

A number of hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of SO. World Asset Management Inc boosted its stake in shares of Southern by 3.5% in the second quarter. World Asset Management Inc now owns 96,154 shares of the company’s stock valued at $5,157,000 after buying an additional 3,246 shares in the last quarter. National Pension Service boosted its stake in shares of Southern by 8.8% in the third quarter. National Pension Service now owns 585,911 shares of the company’s stock valued at $30,057,000 after buying an additional 47,146 shares in the last quarter. Huntington National Bank boosted its stake in shares of Southern by 167.6% in the second quarter. Huntington National Bank now owns 255,875 shares of the company’s stock valued at $13,723,000 after buying an additional 160,243 shares in the last quarter. UBS Asset Management Americas Inc. boosted its stake in shares of Southern by 3.5% in the third quarter. UBS Asset Management Americas Inc. now owns 4,069,783 shares of the company’s stock valued at $208,780,000 after buying an additional 139,492 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Bank of New York Mellon Corp boosted its stake in shares of Southern by 0.5% in the second quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp now owns 10,577,864 shares of the company’s stock valued at $567,291,000 after buying an additional 57,511 shares in the last quarter. 50.43% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

Southern Company Profile

The Southern Company (Southern Company) is a holding company. The Company owns all of the stock of the traditional operating companies and Southern Power Company (Southern Power), and owns other direct and indirect subsidiaries. Southern Company’s segments include the sale of electricity by four traditional operating companies, Southern Power and All Other.

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