Centene (NYSE:CNC) Raised to Strong-Buy at Zacks Investment Research

Centene (NYSE:CNC) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “strong-buy” rating in a research report issued to clients and investors on Tuesday, December 26th. The firm currently has a $117.00 target price on the stock. Zacks Investment Research‘s price objective points to a potential upside of 6.87% from the company’s current price.

According to Zacks, “Year to date, Centene’s shares have outperformed the industry. The company’s strong and consistent performance is likely to have generated confidence among the investors. It has seen substantial inorganic growth in the last five years. The acquisition of Health Net in 2016 bolstered the company’s growth, expansion and asset base. Its solid financial position provides a major boost to its capital deployment initiatives. The company’s strong Managed care segment also contributes to its strong results. The guidance raise for 2017 and strong earnings outlook for 2018 instills shareholders' confidence in the company. However, rising level of debt hurts the company's profitability. Moreover, increasing costs also continue to weigh on the margins.”

Other research analysts have also issued reports about the company. Jefferies Group upped their target price on Centene from $98.00 to $112.00 and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a research report on Friday, October 13th. Oppenheimer reaffirmed a “buy” rating and issued a $105.00 target price on shares of Centene in a research report on Friday, September 29th. Piper Jaffray Companies reaffirmed a “buy” rating and issued a $105.00 target price on shares of Centene in a research report on Friday, September 1st. Cantor Fitzgerald reaffirmed a “buy” rating and issued a $107.00 target price on shares of Centene in a research report on Tuesday, October 24th. Finally, Cowen reaffirmed a “buy” rating and issued a $115.00 target price on shares of Centene in a research report on Tuesday, October 24th. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, three have assigned a hold rating, seventeen have given a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average target price of $104.21.

Shares of Centene (NYSE:CNC) opened at $109.48 on Tuesday. The stock has a market capitalization of $18,890.00, a PE ratio of 22.62, a P/E/G ratio of 1.34 and a beta of 0.70. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.71, a current ratio of 0.99 and a quick ratio of 0.99. Centene has a one year low of $61.15 and a one year high of $109.70.

Centene (NYSE:CNC) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, October 24th. The company reported $1.35 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $1.24 by $0.11. The firm had revenue of $11.90 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $11.75 billion. Centene had a return on equity of 14.79% and a net margin of 1.81%. The business’s revenue for the quarter was up 9.7% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the business earned $1.12 EPS. analysts predict that Centene will post 4.99 earnings per share for the current year.

In other news, EVP Keith H. Williamson sold 5,000 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, January 2nd. The stock was sold at an average price of $100.11, for a total transaction of $500,550.00. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available at this link. Also, Director Robert K. Ditmore sold 4,167 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Thursday, October 26th. The shares were sold at an average price of $90.42, for a total value of $376,780.14. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last three months, insiders have sold 27,917 shares of company stock worth $2,777,255. 3.00% of the stock is currently owned by insiders.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of CNC. Columbus Circle Investors acquired a new stake in Centene in the 3rd quarter valued at approximately $9,387,000. Arrowstreet Capital Limited Partnership acquired a new stake in Centene in the 2nd quarter valued at approximately $455,000. Handelsbanken Fonder AB grew its holdings in Centene by 29.0% in the 3rd quarter. Handelsbanken Fonder AB now owns 178,000 shares of the company’s stock valued at $17,225,000 after buying an additional 40,000 shares during the last quarter. Artemis Investment Management LLP acquired a new stake in Centene in the 2nd quarter valued at approximately $15,326,000. Finally, Trustmark National Bank Trust Department acquired a new stake in Centene in the 3rd quarter valued at approximately $291,000. 91.84% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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Centene Company Profile

Centene Corporation is a healthcare company. The Company provides a portfolio of services to government sponsored healthcare programs, focusing on under-insured and uninsured individuals. The Company operates through two segments: Managed Care and Specialty Services. The Company’s Managed Care segment provides health plan coverage to individuals, through government subsidized programs, including Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Long Term Care, Foster Care, dual-eligible individuals (Duals) and the Supplemental Security Income Program, also known as the Aged, Blind or Disabled Program (ABD), Medicare, and Health Insurance Marketplace.

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