Zacks Investment Research Downgrades W. R. Berkley (WRB) to Sell

W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a report released on Saturday.

According to Zacks, “Exposures to highly competitive reinsurance market, rising debt inducing higher interest expenses and cat loss are a woe for W.R. Berkley. A Zacks Rank #4 and Earnings ESP of 1.66% makes surprise prediction difficult as it reports results on Oct 23. But it has been investing in numerous startups since 2006 as well as establishing new units, enabling it to take advantage of an improved market scenario. Launch of Berkley Healthcare It seems a prudent step by the insurer to tap the growing healthcare market, which currently representing 18% of U.S. GDP. Establishing operating units in North and Southeast Asia is also 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. A disciplined stance and a solid capital position are other tailwinds. Shares of W.R. Berkley have outperformed the industry year to date.”

A number of other equities research analysts also recently weighed in on WRB. Goldman Sachs Group began coverage on W. R. Berkley in a report on Monday, June 18th. They set a “sell” rating and a $74.00 price objective on the stock. They noted that the move was a valuation call. ValuEngine downgraded W. R. Berkley from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a report on Monday, June 18th. Boenning Scattergood reaffirmed a “hold” rating on shares of W. R. Berkley in a report on Wednesday, July 25th. Finally, Credit Suisse Group began coverage on W. R. Berkley in a report on Tuesday, August 7th. They set a “neutral” rating and a $78.00 price objective on the stock. Four analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, five have given a hold rating and one has given a buy rating to the company. W. R. Berkley has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $73.57.

NYSE WRB traded down $0.81 during trading on Friday, reaching $73.60. 476,105 shares of the company traded hands, compared to its average volume of 375,502. The company has a current ratio of 0.37, a quick ratio of 0.37 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.49. The company has a market capitalization of $9.74 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 29.92, a PEG ratio of 2.39 and a beta of 0.82. W. R. Berkley has a 1-year low of $65.92 and a 1-year high of $80.68.

W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) last released its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, July 24th. The insurance provider reported $0.97 earnings per share for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.82 by $0.15. The company had revenue of $1.58 billion for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.58 billion. W. R. Berkley had a return on equity of 7.25% and a net margin of 8.54%. The company’s quarterly revenue was up .8% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the previous year, the business earned $0.85 earnings per share. On average, analysts predict that W. R. Berkley will post 3.71 earnings per share for the current year.

Large investors have recently bought and sold shares of the company. American International Group Inc. raised its stake in shares of W. R. Berkley by 0.7% in the second quarter. American International Group Inc. now owns 201,143 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $14,565,000 after acquiring an additional 1,361 shares during the last quarter. Carillon Tower Advisers Inc. raised its stake in shares of W. R. Berkley by 44.9% in the second quarter. Carillon Tower Advisers Inc. now owns 209,325 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $15,157,000 after acquiring an additional 64,850 shares during the last quarter. Mutual of America Capital Management LLC raised its stake in shares of W. R. Berkley by 4.4% in the second quarter. Mutual of America Capital Management LLC now owns 82,329 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $5,961,000 after acquiring an additional 3,462 shares during the last quarter. Envestnet Asset Management Inc. raised its stake in shares of W. R. Berkley by 38.5% in the second quarter. Envestnet Asset Management Inc. now owns 84,192 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $6,096,000 after acquiring an additional 23,403 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Alps Advisors Inc. bought a new position in shares of W. R. Berkley in the second quarter valued at approximately $207,000. Institutional investors own 72.64% 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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