Hexavest Inc. Cuts Holdings in Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK)

Hexavest Inc. cut its holdings in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) by 6.3% during the third quarter, HoldingsChannel.com reports. The firm owned 1,147,647 shares of the company’s stock after selling 76,978 shares during the quarter. Merck & Co., Inc. makes up 1.0% of Hexavest Inc.’s portfolio, making the stock its 23rd biggest position. Hexavest Inc.’s holdings in Merck & Co., Inc. were worth $81,414,000 as of its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Other institutional investors have also added to or reduced their stakes in the company. Rockland Trust Co. bought a new stake in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in the 2nd quarter valued at about $3,949,000. Sawyer & Company Inc increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 10.7% in the 2nd quarter. Sawyer & Company Inc now owns 22,984 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,395,000 after acquiring an additional 2,215 shares during the last quarter. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 37.0% in the 2nd quarter. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC now owns 122,748 shares of the company’s stock valued at $7,451,000 after acquiring an additional 33,153 shares during the last quarter. Jennison Associates LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 11.0% in the 2nd quarter. Jennison Associates LLC now owns 924,946 shares of the company’s stock valued at $56,144,000 after acquiring an additional 91,879 shares during the last quarter. Finally, HL Financial Services LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 0.7% in the 2nd quarter. HL Financial Services LLC now owns 217,281 shares of the company’s stock valued at $13,189,000 after acquiring an additional 1,540 shares during the last quarter. Institutional investors own 72.33% of the company’s stock.

In related news, SVP Ashley Watson sold 47,036 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, October 31st. The stock was sold at an average price of $74.33, for a total transaction of $3,496,185.88. Following the completion of the sale, the senior vice president now directly owns 32,990 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $2,452,146.70. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Also, EVP Adam H. Schechter sold 277,879 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, November 1st. The stock was sold at an average price of $73.81, for a total value of $20,510,248.99. Following the sale, the executive vice president now directly owns 277,879 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $20,510,248.99. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last three months, insiders have sold 1,017,443 shares of company stock valued at $73,155,331. 0.32% of the stock is owned by company insiders.

NYSE MRK opened at $72.27 on Friday. Merck & Co., Inc. has a 52-week low of $52.83 and a 52-week high of $74.49. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.61, a current ratio of 1.33 and a quick ratio of 1.04. The company has a market cap of $196.47 billion, a P/E ratio of 18.16, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 1.98 and a beta of 0.81.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) last posted its earnings results on Thursday, October 25th. The company reported $1.19 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.14 by $0.05. Merck & Co., Inc. had a return on equity of 34.20% and a net margin of 8.44%. The business had revenue of $10.79 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $10.87 billion. As a group, sell-side analysts expect that Merck & Co., Inc. will post 4.34 earnings per share for the current year.

Merck & Co., Inc. declared that its board has authorized a share repurchase program on Thursday, October 25th that permits the company to buyback $10.00 billion in shares. This buyback authorization permits the company to buy up to 5.1% of its shares through open market purchases. Shares buyback programs are generally an indication that the company’s leadership believes its stock is undervalued.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Tuesday, January 8th. Investors of record on Monday, December 17th will be paid a dividend of $0.55 per share. This represents a $2.20 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 3.04%. This is a boost from Merck & Co., Inc.’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.48. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Friday, December 14th. Merck & Co., Inc.’s dividend payout ratio is presently 48.24%.

MRK has been the subject of a number of recent analyst reports. Citigroup set a $79.00 price target on Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research note on Tuesday, October 16th. Zacks Investment Research raised Merck & Co., Inc. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $79.00 price target for the company in a research note on Wednesday, September 26th. Guggenheim initiated coverage on Merck & Co., Inc. in a research note on Monday, October 8th. They issued a “buy” rating for the company. Morgan Stanley set a $74.00 price target on Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research note on Thursday, August 23rd. Finally, SunTrust Banks reaffirmed a “buy” rating and issued a $77.00 price target on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a research note on Thursday, August 16th. Four investment analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and fourteen have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. The company presently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $71.92.

Merck & Co., Inc. Profile

Merck & Co, Inc provides healthcare solutions worldwide. It operates in four segments: Pharmaceutical, Animal Health, Healthcare Services, and Alliances. The company offers therapeutic and preventive agents to treat cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, asthma, nasal allergy symptoms, allergic rhinitis, chronic hepatitis C virus, HIV-1 infection, fungal, intra-abdominal infections, hypertension, arthritis and pain, inflammatory, osteoporosis, and fertility diseases.

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Institutional Ownership by Quarter for Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)

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