Zacks Investment Research Upgrades Whole Foods Market, Inc. (WFM) to Hold

Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) from a sell rating to a hold rating in a research note released on Friday, May 12th.

According to Zacks, “Whole Foods is revamping its pricing strategy as well as concentrating on value offerings and new store concept to spur sales. The company is focusing on cost cutting, inventory management and store-level performance. These endeavors have helped the stock to outperform the industry in the past three months, in spite of prevailing headwinds such as stiff competition, food price deflation, aggressive promotional environment and waning store traffic. The reflection of the same was visible in the second-quarter fiscal 2017 results, wherein comps slid for the seventh straight quarter and bottom line continues to decline year over year, albeit total sales did increase. Taking into account the strategic initiatives, management expects to deliver positive comps and register earnings growth by fiscal 2018. But for now it has trimmed its sales and earnings forecast for fiscal 2017, and expects comps to decline as much as 2.5% during the fiscal year.”

A number of other analysts have also recently weighed in on WFM. Wells Fargo & Company raised Whole Foods Market from a market perform rating to an outperform rating and set a $42.00 price objective for the company in a research report on Thursday, May 11th. Vetr raised Whole Foods Market from a hold rating to a strong-buy rating and set a $35.01 target price for the company in a research note on Wednesday, March 8th. Deutsche Bank AG reissued a hold rating and set a $28.00 target price (down from $29.00) on shares of Whole Foods Market in a research note on Thursday, February 9th. Wolfe Research raised Whole Foods Market from an underperform rating to a market perform rating in a research note on Tuesday, May 2nd. Finally, TheStreet raised Whole Foods Market from a c+ rating to a b rating in a research note on Wednesday, March 1st. Six investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, fourteen have given a hold rating and nine have issued a buy rating to the company. The stock currently has an average rating of Hold and a consensus target price of $34.30.

Shares of Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ WFM) traded up 29.10% during trading on Friday, reaching $42.68. 128,832,883 shares of the company were exchanged. Whole Foods Market has a 1-year low of $27.67 and a 1-year high of $43.45. The firm has a market capitalization of $13.64 billion, a P/E ratio of 33.98 and a beta of 0.88. The firm’s 50 day moving average is $35.95 and its 200 day moving average is $32.29.

Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM) last released its quarterly earnings data on Wednesday, May 10th. The company reported $0.37 EPS for the quarter, meeting analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.37. Whole Foods Market had a return on equity of 13.72% and a net margin of 2.54%. The business had revenue of $3.74 million for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $3.73 billion. During the same quarter in the prior year, the business posted $0.44 EPS. The business’s revenue for the quarter was down 99.9% on a year-over-year basis. On average, equities analysts anticipate that Whole Foods Market will post $1.31 EPS for the current fiscal year.

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The company also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Tuesday, July 11th. Shareholders of record on Friday, June 30th will be paid a dividend of $0.18 per share. This is an increase from Whole Foods Market’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.14. This represents a $0.72 annualized dividend and a yield of 1.69%. The ex-dividend date is Wednesday, June 28th. Whole Foods Market’s payout ratio is 44.44%.

In other news, insider Laura A. Derba sold 2,200 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Tuesday, May 16th. The shares were sold at an average price of $36.48, for a total value of $80,256.00. Following the transaction, the insider now directly owns 3,418 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $124,688.64. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at this hyperlink. Also, insider Juan Nunez sold 14,502 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Thursday, May 18th. The stock was sold at an average price of $27.52, for a total transaction of $399,095.04. Following the completion of the transaction, the insider now directly owns 5,746 shares in the company, valued at $158,129.92. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last three months, insiders have sold 18,466 shares of company stock worth $543,688. Company insiders own 1.30% of the company’s stock.

A number of large investors have recently modified their holdings of the company. Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund boosted its stake in shares of Whole Foods Market by 1.6% in the first quarter. Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund now owns 143,522 shares of the company’s stock worth $4,265,000 after buying an additional 2,300 shares in the last quarter. First Personal Financial Services acquired a new stake in shares of Whole Foods Market during the third quarter worth about $1,447,000. Everence Capital Management Inc. acquired a new stake in shares of Whole Foods Market during the first quarter worth about $383,000. Macquarie Group Ltd. boosted its stake in shares of Whole Foods Market by 17.1% in the fourth quarter. Macquarie Group Ltd. now owns 37,000 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,138,000 after buying an additional 5,400 shares in the last quarter. Finally, IFP Advisors Inc boosted its stake in shares of Whole Foods Market by 52.5% in the first quarter. IFP Advisors Inc now owns 17,547 shares of the company’s stock worth $522,000 after buying an additional 6,044 shares in the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 91.41% of the company’s stock.

About Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market, Inc is engaged in the business of natural and organic foods supermarket. The Company operates approximately 456 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Its stores have an average size of approximately 39,000 square feet, and are supported by its distribution centers, bake house facilities, commissary kitchens, seafood-processing facilities, a produce procurement center, and a specialty coffee and tea procurement and roasting operation, among others.

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