Aetna Inc. (AET) Cut to “Hold” at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a report issued on Thursday.

According to Zacks, “Aetna’s third-quarter earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate and grew year over year, driven by strong underwriting margin performance, disciplined pricing, a focus on high quality care management, and a decline in medical cost. Aetna’s shares have outperformed the industry year to date. We expect the company to witness long-term growth from its Government business and International expansion. Its cost-reduction initiatives will aid margins. The sale of its Group Life and Disability business will help it to focus on core growth areas. Following strong third-quarter results, Aetna raised its earnings guidance, cementing investors' confidence in it. Aetna has, however, been incurring losses in its public exchange business and has been exiting exchanges. Furthermore, its membership growth remains under pressure. Increasing medical benefit ratios are also likely to hurt margins.”

AET has been the topic of several other reports. Jefferies Group LLC increased their price objective on shares of Aetna from $165.00 to $185.00 and gave the company a hold rating in a report on Wednesday, November 1st. Citigroup Inc. increased their price objective on shares of Aetna from $183.00 to $197.00 and gave the company a buy rating in a report on Thursday. Cantor Fitzgerald reaffirmed an overweight rating and set a $175.00 price objective (up from $150.00) on shares of Aetna in a report on Wednesday, August 9th. Deutsche Bank AG increased their price objective on shares of Aetna from $157.00 to $163.00 and gave the company a hold rating in a report on Monday, August 7th. Finally, Royal Bank Of Canada increased their price objective on shares of Aetna from $162.00 to $171.00 and gave the company an outperform rating in a report on Friday, August 4th. Eleven investment analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and fourteen have assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock has an average rating of Buy and an average price target of $170.34.

Shares of Aetna (AET) opened at $176.99 on Thursday. Aetna has a twelve month low of $105.39 and a twelve month high of $184.98. The stock has a market cap of $57,716.44, a price-to-earnings ratio of 17.33, a P/E/G ratio of 1.61 and a beta of 0.61. The company has a current ratio of 0.53, a quick ratio of 0.53 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.52.

Aetna (NYSE:AET) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday, October 31st. The company reported $2.45 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $2.06 by $0.39. Aetna had a net margin of 2.93% and a return on equity of 21.84%. The firm had revenue of $14.99 billion for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $15.12 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the firm posted $2.07 earnings per share. The firm’s quarterly revenue was down 5.0% compared to the same quarter last year. analysts anticipate that Aetna will post 9.79 EPS for the current fiscal year.

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The company also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, October 27th. Investors of record on Thursday, October 12th were given a dividend of $0.50 per share. This represents a $2.00 annualized dividend and a yield of 1.13%. The ex-dividend date was Wednesday, October 11th. Aetna’s payout ratio is currently 37.04%.

In related news, President Karen S. Lynch sold 15,271 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Monday, September 18th. The shares were sold at an average price of $161.91, for a total transaction of $2,472,527.61. Following the completion of the sale, the president now directly owns 64,261 shares in the company, valued at $10,404,498.51. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Also, EVP Margaret M. Mccarthy sold 10,288 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, September 15th. The stock was sold at an average price of $162.85, for a total transaction of $1,675,400.80. Following the sale, the executive vice president now owns 33,563 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $5,465,734.55. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 1.14% of the stock is currently owned by company insiders.

Several institutional investors and hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in the business. BlackRock Inc. increased its position in shares of Aetna by 3,374.9% during the first quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 30,712,219 shares of the company’s stock valued at $3,917,344,000 after acquiring an additional 29,828,390 shares during the last quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. increased its position in shares of Aetna by 3.8% during the first quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 23,117,526 shares of the company’s stock valued at $2,948,640,000 after acquiring an additional 838,578 shares during the last quarter. Capital World Investors increased its position in shares of Aetna by 8.9% during the second quarter. Capital World Investors now owns 20,769,004 shares of the company’s stock valued at $3,153,358,000 after acquiring an additional 1,688,767 shares during the last quarter. FMR LLC increased its position in shares of Aetna by 73.8% during the second quarter. FMR LLC now owns 13,736,800 shares of the company’s stock valued at $2,085,659,000 after acquiring an additional 5,833,567 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Janus Henderson Group PLC increased its position in shares of Aetna by 9,446.2% during the second quarter. Janus Henderson Group PLC now owns 4,328,900 shares of the company’s stock valued at $657,255,000 after acquiring an additional 4,283,553 shares during the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 91.06% of the company’s stock.

About Aetna

Aetna Inc is a diversified healthcare benefits company. The Company operates through three segments: Health Care, Group Insurance and Large Case Pensions. It offers a range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, medical management capabilities, Medicaid healthcare management services, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans, workers’ compensation administrative services and health information technology (HIT) products and services.

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