AstraZeneca (AZN) Cut to “Sell” at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a research note released on Monday morning.

According to Zacks, “AstraZeneca’s newer drugs like Tagrisso and Brilinta should keep contributing to the top line while several launches are underway across each of the therapeutic areas Oncology, CV metabolism and Respiratory. However, AstraZeneca’s core products like Nexium, Seroquel and Crestor are facing generic competition, which is hurting sales. Sales in the diabetes franchise are declining due to intense pricing pressure and competition from market share. Rising competition in the immuno-oncology market is a significant concern. Sales of another important respiratory drug, Symbicort, are declining due to significant pricing pressure on the ICS/LABA class. AstraZeneca is looking to return to growth by 2018 as patent expirations have been hurting its growth since 2010. The company has a positive record of earnings surprises in the recent quarters. Estimates movement has been mixed ahead of the company’s Q4 earnings release.”

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A number of other brokerages have also weighed in on AZN. BMO Capital Markets set a $40.00 price target on shares of AstraZeneca and gave the company a buy rating in a research note on Thursday, March 22nd. ValuEngine raised shares of AstraZeneca from a buy rating to a strong-buy rating in a research note on Monday, March 19th. Sanford C. Bernstein lifted their price target on shares of AstraZeneca from $40.00 to $42.00 and gave the company an outperform rating in a research note on Monday, February 5th. Leerink Swann reaffirmed a market perform rating and issued a $36.00 price target (up previously from $33.00) on shares of AstraZeneca in a research note on Thursday, January 18th. Finally, Jefferies Group raised shares of AstraZeneca from a hold rating to a buy rating and lifted their price target for the company from $28.43 to $36.70 in a research note on Monday, March 19th. Three equities research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, five have given a hold rating, twelve have given a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the stock. AstraZeneca currently has a consensus rating of Buy and a consensus target price of $38.12.

Shares of AZN opened at $36.44 on Monday. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.93, a quick ratio of 0.62 and a current ratio of 0.80. AstraZeneca has a twelve month low of $28.43 and a twelve month high of $36.75. The company has a market capitalization of $90,930.97, a price-to-earnings ratio of 8.51, a P/E/G ratio of 1.86 and a beta of 0.62.

AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Friday, February 2nd. The company reported $1.30 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.44 by $0.86. AstraZeneca had a net margin of 13.36% and a return on equity of 34.74%. The firm had revenue of $5.78 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $5.49 billion. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm posted $1.21 earnings per share. The business’s revenue was up 3.4% on a year-over-year basis. analysts anticipate that AstraZeneca will post 1.7 earnings per share for the current year.

The firm also recently disclosed a semiannual dividend, which was paid on Monday, March 19th. Stockholders of record on Friday, February 16th were given a $0.95 dividend. This represents a dividend yield of 5.62%. The ex-dividend date was Thursday, February 15th. AstraZeneca’s dividend payout ratio is presently 32.01%.

Hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in the company. Pinnacle Wealth Planning Services Inc. bought a new stake in shares of AstraZeneca in the fourth quarter worth $101,000. Valeo Financial Advisors LLC bought a new stake in shares of AstraZeneca in the third quarter worth $133,000. Delpha Capital Management LLC acquired a new position in AstraZeneca during the fourth quarter worth $152,000. Calton & Associates Inc. acquired a new position in AstraZeneca during the fourth quarter worth $181,000. Finally, Wealthcare Advisory Partners LLC acquired a new position in AstraZeneca during the third quarter worth $184,000. 15.14% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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AstraZeneca Company Profile

AstraZeneca PLC (AstraZeneca) is a biopharmaceutical company. The Company focuses on discovery and development of products, which are then manufactured, marketed and sold. The Company focuses on three main therapy areas: Oncology, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disease (CVMD) and Respiratory, while selectively pursuing therapies in Autoimmunity, Infection and Neuroscience.

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