Southern (SO) Stock Rating Upgraded by Zacks Investment Research

Southern (NYSE:SO) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a report issued on Tuesday. The brokerage presently has a $53.00 target price on the utilities provider’s stock. Zacks Investment Research‘s target price points to a potential upside of 11.60% from the stock’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “One of the largest and best-managed electric utility holding companies in the United States, Southern Company has maintained its excellent track record of earnings surprise history, beating estimates in each of the last seven quarters. It dominates the power business across the southeastern region. With good rate base growth and constructive regulation, it is expected to generate steady earnings and dividend growth in the coming years through long-term power contracts. Additionally, Southern Company's $12 billion AGL Resources buy has significantly increased its customer base and diversified offerings. SO inlked divestment deals worth more than $8 billion this year, which will further help to raise cash and upgrade its portfolio. Sporting a low beta – translating into less volatility – and a reasonable valuation, Southern Company is seen as an attractive investment. “

Several other equities analysts have also weighed in on SO. SunTrust Banks reaffirmed a “hold” rating and issued a $50.00 price objective on shares of Southern in a research note on Monday, August 6th. Citigroup downgraded Southern from a “neutral” rating to a “sell” rating and set a $45.00 target price on the stock. in a report on Wednesday, August 8th. Guggenheim downgraded Southern from a “buy” rating to a “neutral” rating and dropped their target price for the company from $50.00 to $47.00 in a report on Wednesday, August 8th. Scotiabank reiterated a “hold” rating and set a $44.00 target price on shares of Southern in a report on Thursday, August 9th. Finally, Barclays downgraded Southern from an “overweight” rating to an “equal weight” rating and dropped their target price for the company from $51.00 to $48.00 in a report on Thursday, August 9th. Six research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, ten have assigned a hold rating and two have given a buy rating to the stock. The stock presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $46.32.

NYSE SO opened at $47.49 on Tuesday. The stock has a market capitalization of $48.70 billion, a PE ratio of 15.73, a PEG ratio of 3.47 and a beta of -0.07. Southern has a 1-year low of $42.38 and a 1-year high of $52.00. The company has a current ratio of 0.72, a quick ratio of 0.58 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.48.

Southern (NYSE:SO) last released its quarterly earnings data on Wednesday, November 7th. The utilities provider reported $1.14 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $1.07 by $0.07. The business had revenue of $6.70 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $6.68 billion. Southern had a return on equity of 12.88% and a net margin of 10.35%. The company’s revenue was up 8.0% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same period in the previous year, the company posted $1.12 EPS. Sell-side analysts expect that Southern will post 3.03 EPS for the current fiscal year.

Several large investors have recently made changes to their positions in SO. Renaissance Technologies LLC raised its holdings in shares of Southern by 264.9% during the 3rd quarter. Renaissance Technologies LLC now owns 4,812,401 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $209,821,000 after buying an additional 3,493,601 shares during the period. FMR LLC increased its holdings in Southern by 28.2% during the 3rd quarter. FMR LLC now owns 8,617,581 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $375,726,000 after purchasing an additional 1,896,970 shares during the last quarter. Zimmer Partners LP purchased a new stake in Southern during the 3rd quarter worth approximately $63,220,000. Vanguard Group Inc. increased its holdings in Southern by 1.7% during the 3rd quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 77,467,557 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $3,377,586,000 after purchasing an additional 1,324,658 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Morgan Stanley increased its holdings in Southern by 35.0% during the 2nd quarter. Morgan Stanley now owns 4,929,465 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $228,284,000 after purchasing an additional 1,278,656 shares during the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 56.58% of the company’s stock.

About Southern

The Southern Company, through its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. The company also constructs, acquires, owns, and manages power generation assets, including renewable energy facilities and sells electricity in the wholesale market; and distributes natural gas in Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, and Maryland, as well as provides gas marketing services, wholesale gas services, and gas midstream operations.

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