Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET) Downgraded to “Hold” at Zacks Investment Research

Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report issued on Monday, October 16th.

According to Zacks, “Aetna’s shares outperformed the industry year to date. We expect the company to derive long-term growth from its Government business. Cost-reduction initiatives and growing ACO collaborations pave the way for long-term growth. A strong balance sheet is another positive. Its International expansion is also perceived as an opportunity in the face of increased regulation in the U.S. Following strong second-quarter results, Aetna rasied its earnings guidance which cements investors' confidence in the company. The stock has seen the Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings being revised 6.3% upward over the last 90 days. Aetna has, however, been incurring losses in its public exchange business and has been exiting exchanges to avoid losses from this business. Furthermore, its membership growth remains under pressure. Increasing medical benefit ratios are also likely to hurt margins.”

A number of other brokerages have also recently issued reports on AET. BidaskClub cut Aetna from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Monday, July 31st. Deutsche Bank AG lifted their price objective on Aetna from $157.00 to $163.00 and gave the company a “hold” rating in a research note on Monday, August 7th. Royal Bank Of Canada lifted their price objective on Aetna from $162.00 to $171.00 and gave the company an “outperform” rating in a research note on Friday, August 4th. Morgan Stanley lifted their price objective on Aetna from $172.00 to $179.00 and gave the company an “overweight” rating in a research note on Thursday, August 17th. Finally, Argus reiterated a “buy” rating and set a $185.00 price objective (up previously from $165.00) on shares of Aetna in a research note on Tuesday, September 12th. Nine investment analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating, fourteen have given a buy rating and one has given a strong buy rating to the stock. The stock currently has an average rating of “Buy” and an average target price of $163.67.

Shares of Aetna (AET) opened at 173.12 on Monday. The company has a 50 day moving average of $158.42 and a 200-day moving average of $150.77. Aetna has a 12 month low of $104.59 and a 12 month high of $180.57. The firm has a market capitalization of $57.49 billion, a P/E ratio of 38.43 and a beta of 0.53.

Aetna (NYSE:AET) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, August 3rd. The company reported $3.42 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $2.34 by $1.08. The business had revenue of $15.52 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $15.34 billion. Aetna had a return on equity of 20.52% and a net margin of 2.52%. The firm’s quarterly revenue was down 2.7% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter in the previous year, the business earned $2.21 earnings per share. Analysts predict that Aetna will post $9.49 EPS for the current year.

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In other news, President Karen S. Lynch sold 15,271 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Monday, September 18th. The stock was sold at an average price of $161.91, for a total value of $2,472,527.61. Following the completion of the transaction, the president now owns 64,261 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $10,404,498.51. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, EVP Margaret M. Mccarthy sold 10,288 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, September 15th. The stock was sold at an average price of $162.85, for a total value of $1,675,400.80. Following the completion of the transaction, the executive vice president now directly owns 33,563 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $5,465,734.55. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders own 0.90% of the company’s stock.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. BlackRock Inc. boosted its stake in shares of Aetna by 3,374.9% in the first quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 30,712,219 shares of the company’s stock worth $3,917,344,000 after acquiring an additional 29,828,390 shares during the period. Vanguard Group Inc. boosted its stake in shares of Aetna by 3.8% in the first quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 23,117,526 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,948,640,000 after acquiring an additional 838,578 shares during the period. Capital World Investors boosted its stake in shares of Aetna by 8.9% in the second quarter. Capital World Investors now owns 20,769,004 shares of the company’s stock worth $3,153,358,000 after acquiring an additional 1,688,767 shares during the period. FMR LLC boosted its stake in shares of Aetna by 73.8% in the second quarter. FMR LLC now owns 13,736,800 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,085,659,000 after acquiring an additional 5,833,567 shares during the period. Finally, Janus Henderson Group PLC boosted its stake in shares of Aetna by 9,446.2% in the second quarter. Janus Henderson Group PLC now owns 4,328,900 shares of the company’s stock worth $657,255,000 after acquiring an additional 4,283,553 shares during the period. 89.65% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Aetna Company Profile

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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