W. R. Berkley (WRB) Lowered to “Sell” at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a research report report published on Saturday.

According to Zacks, “Shares of W.R. Berkley have underperformed the industry in a year’s time. Exposures to highly competitive reinsurance market and cat loss are concerns. Increasing debt inducing higher interest expenses weigh on desired margin expansion. Nonetheless, W.R. Berkley has been investing in a number of startups since 2006 as well as establishing new units, enabling it to take advantage of an improved market scenario. Establishing operating units in North and Southeast Asia is in line with the strategy while divestment of wholly owned investment is likely to drive shareholder value. Its international business has potential for long-term earnings growth. It is also successfully increasing rate over a considerable time. Reserving discipline and a strong capital position are other positives.”

A number of other analysts have also recently commented on WRB. Goldman Sachs Group assumed coverage on shares of W. R. Berkley in a report on Monday, June 18th. They set a sell rating and a $74.00 target price for the company. They noted that the move was a valuation call. ValuEngine lowered shares of W. R. Berkley from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research report on Monday, June 18th. Boenning Scattergood reiterated a hold rating on shares of W. R. Berkley in a research report on Wednesday, April 25th. Finally, Bank of America lowered shares of W. R. Berkley from a neutral rating to an underperform rating and set a $74.00 price target for the company. in a research report on Thursday, June 14th. They noted that the move was a valuation call. Five equities research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating and seven have given a hold rating to the company’s stock. The stock presently has a consensus rating of Hold and an average price target of $70.78.

Shares of WRB stock opened at $72.41 on Friday. W. R. Berkley has a 12 month low of $62.00 and a 12 month high of $79.74. The company has a market cap of $8.81 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 26.14, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.22 and a beta of 0.81. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.49, a current ratio of 0.36 and a quick ratio of 0.36.

W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) last announced its earnings results on Tuesday, April 24th. The insurance provider reported $1.00 EPS for the quarter, beating the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.89 by $0.11. W. R. Berkley had a net margin of 7.68% and a return on equity of 6.53%. The business had revenue of $1.57 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $1.57 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the company earned $0.96 earnings per share. The firm’s revenue was down .2% on a year-over-year basis. research analysts predict that W. R. Berkley will post 3.63 earnings per share for the current year.

The company also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, July 5th. Shareholders of record on Friday, June 15th will be given a $0.15 dividend. This is a positive change from W. R. Berkley’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.14. This represents a $0.60 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 0.83%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Thursday, June 14th. W. R. Berkley’s dividend payout ratio is presently 24.39%.

In other W. R. Berkley news, EVP James G. Shiel sold 22,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, June 13th. The shares were sold at an average price of $77.04, for a total value of $1,694,880.00. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through this hyperlink. Corporate insiders own 22.20% of the company’s stock.

Several large investors have recently modified their holdings of WRB. Wells Fargo & Company MN boosted its position in shares of W. R. Berkley by 4.4% during the fourth quarter. Wells Fargo & Company MN now owns 352,006 shares of the insurance provider’s stock worth $25,221,000 after acquiring an additional 14,842 shares during the last quarter. Brown Advisory Inc. boosted its position in shares of W. R. Berkley by 6.8% during the fourth quarter. Brown Advisory Inc. now owns 15,256 shares of the insurance provider’s stock worth $1,094,000 after acquiring an additional 968 shares during the last quarter. Mackenzie Financial Corp bought a new position in shares of W. R. Berkley during the fourth quarter worth $2,685,000. Amalgamated Bank boosted its position in shares of W. R. Berkley by 6.1% during the fourth quarter. Amalgamated Bank now owns 19,260 shares of the insurance provider’s stock worth $1,380,000 after acquiring an additional 1,100 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Geode Capital Management LLC boosted its position in shares of W. R. Berkley by 0.4% during the fourth quarter. Geode Capital Management LLC now owns 870,317 shares of the insurance provider’s stock worth $62,322,000 after acquiring an additional 3,532 shares during the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 71.76% of the company’s stock.

About W. R. Berkley

W. R. Berkley Corporation, an insurance holding company, operates as a commercial lines writer in the United States and internationally. It operates through two segments, Insurance and Reinsurance. The Insurance segment underwrites commercial insurance business, including premises operations, commercial automobile, property, products liability, and professional liability lines.

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