Darden Restaurants, Inc. (DRI) Cut to Hold at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research report report published on Wednesday morning.

According to Zacks, “Darden posted solid fourth-quarter fiscal 2017 results with both the bottom line and the top line beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate. In fact, this quarter marked the 11th successive earnings beat for the company. Meanwhile, Darden’s shares outpaced the Zacks categorized Retail–Restaurants industry year to date. Going forward, various sales initiatives and technology-driven moves should boost the top line. Additionally, efforts to attract guests at Olive Garden, LongHorn and other units, along with the cost saving measures bode well. However, a soft consumer spending environment could keep comps under pressure, while rising labor costs and a non-franchised business model could dampen the company’s profits, moving ahead.”

A number of other analysts have also recently weighed in on DRI. Jefferies Group LLC increased their price objective on Darden Restaurants from $72.00 to $80.00 and gave the stock a hold rating in a research report on Wednesday, March 29th. Maxim Group reaffirmed a hold rating and set a $90.00 price objective on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Wednesday, June 21st. J P Morgan Chase & Co reaffirmed a neutral rating and set a $93.00 price objective (up from $82.00) on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Wednesday, June 28th. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (The) reaffirmed a neutral rating and set a $87.00 price objective (up from $81.00) on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Wednesday, June 28th. Finally, Royal Bank Of Canada increased their price objective on Darden Restaurants from $86.00 to $96.00 and gave the stock a sector perform rating in a research report on Wednesday, June 28th. Two investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, eighteen have given a hold rating and seven have issued a buy rating to the company’s stock. The company has an average rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $84.78.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) traded up 0.80% during midday trading on Wednesday, hitting $89.66. The company had a trading volume of 1,094,975 shares. The firm has a 50-day moving average price of $89.37 and a 200-day moving average price of $80.52. The company has a market cap of $11.21 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 23.58 and a beta of 0.28. Darden Restaurants has a 12 month low of $59.50 and a 12 month high of $95.22.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) last announced its earnings results on Tuesday, June 27th. The restaurant operator reported $1.18 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.15 by $0.03. The firm had revenue of $1.94 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $1.86 billion. Darden Restaurants had a return on equity of 26.18% and a net margin of 6.68%. The business’s revenue was up 8.1% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the firm earned $1.10 EPS. Equities analysts anticipate that Darden Restaurants will post $4.47 EPS for the current year.

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The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Tuesday, August 1st. Stockholders of record on Monday, July 10th will be issued a dividend of $0.63 per share. This is a boost from Darden Restaurants’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.56. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, July 6th. This represents a $2.52 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.81%. Darden Restaurants’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is 66.14%.

In other news, insider Eugene I. Lee, Jr. sold 93,125 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Thursday, June 29th. The stock was sold at an average price of $91.58, for a total transaction of $8,528,387.50. Following the sale, the insider now owns 165,062 shares in the company, valued at $15,116,377.96. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through the SEC website. 0.69% of the stock is owned by company insiders.

Large investors have recently bought and sold shares of the company. Franklin Resources Inc. boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 9.1% in the fourth quarter. Franklin Resources Inc. now owns 5,995 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $436,000 after buying an additional 500 shares during the last quarter. Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc. boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 38.2% in the fourth quarter. Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc. now owns 3,807 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $277,000 after buying an additional 1,053 shares during the last quarter. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 3.0% in the fourth quarter. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans now owns 4,457 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $324,000 after buying an additional 130 shares during the last quarter. Putnam Investments LLC purchased a new position in shares of Darden Restaurants during the fourth quarter worth $1,791,000. Finally, UBS Asset Management Americas Inc. boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 33.0% in the fourth quarter. UBS Asset Management Americas Inc. now owns 806,456 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $58,644,000 after buying an additional 200,243 shares during the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 96.55% of the company’s stock.

About Darden Restaurants

Darden Restaurants, Inc is a full-service restaurant company. The Company owned and operated 1,536 restaurants through its subsidiaries in the United States and Canada, as of May 29, 2016. The Company’s segments include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Fine Dining (which includes The Capital Grille, and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Wildfish Seafood Grille (Eddie V’s)) and Other Business (which includes Yard House, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, consumer-packaged goods and franchise revenues).

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