Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) Upgraded to “Buy” by Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report sent to investors on Monday, January 8th. Zacks Investment Research currently has $111.00 price objective on the restaurant operator’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Darden posted solid second-quarter fiscal 2018 results with the bottom and the top line surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate. In fact, the reported quarter marked the 13th successive earnings beat for the company. Meanwhile, Darden’s shares also outpaced its industry in the past one year. Current-quarter and year estimates have also moved northward over the past two months. Going ahead, various sales initiatives and technology-driven moves are expected to boost the top line. Additionally, efforts to attract guests at Olive Garden, LongHorn and other units along with the cost saving measures are encouraging. However, a soft consumer spending environment might keep comps under pressure while rising labor costs and a non-franchised business model may dampen the company’s profits.”

A number of other research firms also recently issued reports on DRI. BMO Capital Markets set a $101.00 price target on Darden Restaurants and gave the stock a hold rating in a research note on Tuesday, December 19th. Robert W. Baird restated an outperform rating and set a $104.00 price target (up previously from $94.00) on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research note on Wednesday, December 20th. Maxim Group restated a buy rating and set a $103.00 price target (up previously from $93.00) on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research note on Wednesday, December 20th. Credit Suisse Group restated a market perform rating and set a $90.00 price target (up previously from $82.00) on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research note on Wednesday, December 20th. They noted that the move was a valuation call. Finally, Jefferies Group lifted their target price on Darden Restaurants from $82.00 to $90.00 and gave the company a hold rating in a research note on Wednesday, December 20th. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, sixteen have assigned a hold rating and eleven have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock presently has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $96.22.

Shares of Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) opened at $96.04 on Monday. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.47, a quick ratio of 0.20 and a current ratio of 0.34. Darden Restaurants has a 12-month low of $71.62 and a 12-month high of $100.11. The firm has a market capitalization of $11,860.00, a PE ratio of 24.19, a PEG ratio of 1.89 and a beta of 0.16.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) last issued its earnings results on Tuesday, December 19th. The restaurant operator reported $0.73 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.70 by $0.03. The business had revenue of $1.88 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $1.85 billion. Darden Restaurants had a return on equity of 26.24% and a net margin of 6.46%. research analysts forecast that Darden Restaurants will post 4.76 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The company also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Thursday, February 1st. Investors of record on Wednesday, January 10th were issued a dividend of $0.63 per share. The ex-dividend date was Tuesday, January 9th. This represents a $2.52 annualized dividend and a yield of 2.62%. Darden Restaurants’s dividend payout ratio is presently 63.48%.

In related news, CFO Ricardo Cardenas sold 10,783 shares of Darden Restaurants stock in a transaction on Wednesday, January 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $97.17, for a total transaction of $1,047,784.11. Following the completion of the transaction, the chief financial officer now directly owns 20,046 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $1,947,869.82. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, insider Eugene I. Lee, Jr. sold 59,783 shares of Darden Restaurants stock in a transaction on Wednesday, January 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $96.80, for a total value of $5,786,994.40. Following the transaction, the insider now directly owns 164,396 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $15,913,532.80. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last ninety days, insiders have sold 74,866 shares of company stock valued at $7,252,094. 0.63% of the stock is currently owned by insiders.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in DRI. HS Management Partners LLC acquired a new position in shares of Darden Restaurants in the third quarter worth $157,044,000. Victory Capital Management Inc. raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 1,963.6% in the fourth quarter. Victory Capital Management Inc. now owns 2,067,552 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $198,526,000 after acquiring an additional 1,967,362 shares during the last quarter. Janus Henderson Group PLC raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 113.6% in the third quarter. Janus Henderson Group PLC now owns 1,576,026 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $124,158,000 after acquiring an additional 838,341 shares during the last quarter. APG Asset Management N.V. raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 34.4% in the third quarter. APG Asset Management N.V. now owns 2,361,712 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $186,056,000 after acquiring an additional 604,364 shares during the last quarter. Finally, American Century Companies Inc. raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 29.2% in the fourth quarter. American Century Companies Inc. now owns 1,689,176 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $162,195,000 after acquiring an additional 381,677 shares during the last quarter. 91.55% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

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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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