AFLAC Incorporated (AFL) Rating Increased to Buy at Zacks Investment Research

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 Monday, April 17th. The firm presently has a $82.00 price target on the financial services provider’s stock. Zacks Investment Research‘s target price suggests a potential upside of 11.01% from the company’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “Aflac’s efforts to increase agent productivity, emphasis on sale of third-sector products, pull back on sale of first-sector products, introduction of new product like cancer insurance are likely to drive long-term growth. Its strong capital position enables it to buy back shares and increase dividend payouts. Its 2017 Zacks Consensus earnings estimates have also gone up over the past 60 days. But it remains exposed to a challenging operating environment, primarily in Japan. Moreover, its U.S. business has been facing stiff competition in the middle market, which in turn, has been denting its sales. In 2016, the company recorded disappointing U.S. sales figures. Despite writing almost $1.5 billion in new premiums, the company did not achieve its 2016 sales growth target of 3–5%. The shares have underperformed the Zacks categorized Accident and Health Insurance industry year to date.”

Several other analysts also recently weighed in on the company. Royal Bank of Canada reiterated an “underperform” rating and set a $62.00 price target (down previously from $65.00) on shares of AFLAC in a research note on Thursday, February 2nd. JPMorgan Chase & Co. upgraded AFLAC from a “neutral” rating to an “overweight” rating and boosted their price target for the company from $71.71 to $75.00 in a research note on Monday, February 27th. Citigroup Inc assumed coverage on AFLAC in a research note on Thursday, January 26th. They set a “neutral” rating and a $73.00 price target on the stock. Evercore ISI upgraded AFLAC from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Wednesday, January 11th. Finally, Bank of America Corp upgraded AFLAC from an “underperform” rating to a “neutral” rating and boosted their price target for the company from $75.00 to $78.00 in a research note on Thursday, April 6th. They noted that the move was a valuation call. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have issued a hold rating and three have assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock has an average rating of “Hold” and an average price target of $73.71.

Analyst Recommendations for AFLAC (NYSE:AFL)

AFLAC (NYSE:AFL) last announced its earnings results on Thursday, April 27th. The financial services provider reported $1.67 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $1.62 by $0.05. AFLAC had a return on equity of 13.10% and a net margin of 11.79%. The company had revenue of $5.31 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $5.40 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the company posted $1.74 EPS. The firm’s quarterly revenue was down 2.6% compared to the same quarter last year.

The business also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, June 1st. Stockholders of record on Wednesday, May 24th will be paid a $0.43 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Monday, May 22nd. This represents a $1.72 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 2.33%. AFLAC’s payout ratio is 26.75%.

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In other AFLAC news, Director Robert B. Johnson sold 1,975 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, February 21st. The stock was sold at an average price of $71.45, for a total transaction of $141,113.75. Following the transaction, the director now owns 15,306 shares in the company, valued at $1,093,613.70. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, insider James Todd Daniels sold 1,400 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, March 31st. The stock was sold at an average price of $72.39, for a total value of $101,346.00. Following the transaction, the insider now owns 15,699 shares in the company, valued at approximately $1,136,450.61. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold 41,937 shares of company stock worth $3,002,594 in the last 90 days. Company insiders own 3.90% of the company’s stock.

A number of institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of AFL. BlackRock Inc. increased its position in shares of AFLAC by 1,750.9% in the first 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 in the last quarter. Norges Bank acquired a new position in shares of AFLAC during the fourth quarter worth about $1,454,272,000. AQR Capital Management LLC increased its position in shares of AFLAC by 75.7% in the fourth quarter. AQR Capital Management LLC now owns 4,217,298 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $293,524,000 after buying an additional 1,817,630 shares in the last quarter. State Street Corp increased its position in shares of AFLAC by 7.2% in the fourth quarter. State Street Corp now owns 21,353,746 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $1,486,224,000 after buying an additional 1,433,277 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Vanguard Group Inc. increased its position in shares of AFLAC by 3.4% in the first 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 in the last quarter. Institutional investors own 62.45% of the company’s stock.

About AFLAC

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.

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