Southern (SO) Upgraded to “Buy” by Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Southern (NYSE:SO) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research note released on Tuesday. They currently have $53.00 price target on the utilities provider’s stock.

According to Zacks, “One of the largest and best-managed electric utility holding companies in the United States, Southern Company has maintained its excellent track record of earnings surprise history, beating estimates in each of the last seven quarters. It dominates the power business across the southeastern region. With good rate base growth and constructive regulation, it is expected to generate steady earnings and dividend growth in the coming years through long-term power contracts. Additionally, Southern Company's $12 billion AGL Resources buy has significantly increased its customer base and diversified offerings. SO inlked divestment deals worth more than $8 billion this year, which will further help to raise cash and upgrade its portfolio. Sporting a low beta – translating into less volatility – and a reasonable valuation, Southern Company is seen as an attractive investment. “

A number of other research analysts also recently issued reports on the stock. Bank of America upgraded shares of Southern from an underperform rating to a neutral rating and set a $46.00 price target for the company in a research note on Wednesday, October 10th. UBS Group lifted their price target on shares of Southern from $46.00 to $47.00 and gave the stock a neutral rating in a research note on Monday, October 29th. ValuEngine upgraded shares of Southern from a sell rating to a hold rating in a research note on Friday, October 19th. Morgan Stanley decreased their price target on shares of Southern from $45.00 to $44.00 and set a sell rating for the company in a research note on Friday, September 21st. Finally, Citigroup downgraded shares of Southern from a neutral rating to a sell rating and set a $45.00 price objective for the company. in a research report on Wednesday, August 8th. Six investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, eleven have assigned a hold rating and one has assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. The company presently has an average rating of Hold and a consensus target price of $46.54.

Shares of Southern stock opened at $46.98 on Tuesday. Southern has a 52-week low of $42.38 and a 52-week high of $52.00. The company has a quick ratio of 0.58, a current ratio of 0.72 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.48. The company has a market capitalization of $48.60 billion, a P/E ratio of 15.56, a PEG ratio of 3.46 and a beta of -0.07.

Southern (NYSE:SO) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Wednesday, November 7th. The utilities provider reported $1.14 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.07 by $0.07. Southern had a net margin of 10.35% and a return on equity of 12.88%. The company had revenue of $6.70 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $6.68 billion. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm earned $1.12 earnings per share. The firm’s quarterly revenue was up 8.0% on a year-over-year basis. On average, equities research analysts anticipate that Southern will post 3.03 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The business also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Thursday, December 6th. Stockholders of record on Monday, November 19th were given a dividend of $0.60 per share. The ex-dividend date was Friday, November 16th. This represents a $2.40 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 5.11%. Southern’s dividend payout ratio is presently 79.47%.

In other news, CEO Kimberly S. Greene sold 15,000 shares of Southern stock in a transaction on Monday, December 3rd. The shares were sold at an average price of $47.03, for a total value of $705,450.00. Following the transaction, the chief executive officer now directly owns 9,380 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $441,141.40. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, insider Mark Lantrip sold 9,000 shares of Southern stock in a transaction on Tuesday, December 4th. The shares were sold at an average price of $47.58, for a total transaction of $428,220.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 0.73% of the stock is currently owned by insiders.

Institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the company. CIBC World Markets Inc. increased its stake in Southern by 1.0% in the 3rd quarter. CIBC World Markets Inc. now owns 106,867 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $4,659,000 after buying an additional 1,071 shares during the period. Andra AP fonden increased its stake in Southern by 2.1% in the 2nd quarter. Andra AP fonden now owns 52,500 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $2,431,000 after buying an additional 1,100 shares during the period. Prime Capital Investment Advisors LLC increased its stake in Southern by 10.6% in the 3rd quarter. Prime Capital Investment Advisors LLC now owns 11,597 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $506,000 after buying an additional 1,107 shares during the period. Summit Asset Management LLC increased its stake in Southern by 15.1% in the 3rd quarter. Summit Asset Management LLC now owns 8,868 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $387,000 after buying an additional 1,165 shares during the period. Finally, Evercore Wealth Management LLC increased its stake in Southern by 5.2% in the 3rd quarter. Evercore Wealth Management LLC now owns 23,691 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $1,033,000 after buying an additional 1,171 shares during the period. 56.58% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

About Southern

The Southern Company, through its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. The company also constructs, acquires, owns, and manages power generation assets, including renewable energy facilities and sells electricity in the wholesale market; and distributes natural gas in Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, and Maryland, as well as provides gas marketing services, wholesale gas services, and gas midstream operations.

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