Zacks Investment Research Upgrades Darden Restaurants (DRI) to Buy

Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report released on Friday. Zacks Investment Research currently has $123.00 price objective on the restaurant operator’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Shares of Darden have outperformed the industry over the past year. Given management’s progress on improving core operating fundamentals, along with the recent Cheddar's acquisition, the stock is anticipated to keep performing well in the quarters ahead. Various sales initiatives and technology-driven moves are expected to boost the top line in the months ahead. Also, the company is focusing on an aggressive cost management plan, under which it trying to significantly cut operating costs. Moreover, current-year earnings estimates have remained stable while estimates for next-year have increased by 0.6% over the past two months. However, fierce competition and softer-than-expected consumer demand can keep comps under pressure while rising labor costs and a non-franchised business model may dampen profits.”

Several other analysts also recently commented on the stock. Wells Fargo & Co raised their target price on shares of Darden Restaurants from $108.00 to $109.00 and gave the stock a market perform rating in a report on Thursday. Barclays dropped their target price on shares of Darden Restaurants from $133.00 to $129.00 and set an overweight rating on the stock in a report on Thursday, November 29th. Loop Capital began coverage on shares of Darden Restaurants in a report on Wednesday, October 24th. They set a buy rating and a $130.00 target price on the stock. Gordon Haskett began coverage on shares of Darden Restaurants in a report on Thursday, October 18th. They set an underperform rating and a $94.00 target price on the stock. Finally, Citigroup dropped their target price on shares of Darden Restaurants from $128.00 to $125.00 and set a buy rating on the stock in a report on Thursday, October 4th. Two investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, eight have issued a hold rating and eighteen have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock presently has an average rating of Buy and an average target price of $119.84.

DRI stock traded down $4.55 during mid-day trading on Friday, hitting $104.83. 1,751,425 shares of the company were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 1,377,624. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.41, a quick ratio of 0.26 and a current ratio of 0.41. The company has a market capitalization of $13.58 billion, a P/E ratio of 21.79, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.08 and a beta of 0.17. Darden Restaurants has a 1-year low of $82.38 and a 1-year high of $124.00.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) last announced its earnings results on Thursday, September 20th. The restaurant operator reported $1.34 EPS for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $1.24 by $0.10. The firm had revenue of $2.06 billion for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $2.03 billion. Darden Restaurants had a net margin of 7.84% and a return on equity of 30.32%. The business’s quarterly revenue was up 6.5% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period last year, the company posted $0.99 EPS. Analysts forecast that Darden Restaurants will post 5.63 earnings per share for the current year.

In other news, insider Eugene I. Lee, Jr. sold 60,688 shares of Darden Restaurants stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, September 26th. The shares were sold at an average price of $112.63, for a total value of $6,835,289.44. Following the sale, the insider now directly owns 147,561 shares in the company, valued at $16,619,795.43. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through the SEC website. Also, COO David C. George sold 55,671 shares of Darden Restaurants stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, October 4th. The shares were sold at an average price of $108.24, for a total transaction of $6,025,829.04. Following the completion of the sale, the chief operating officer now owns 95,236 shares in the company, valued at $10,308,344.64. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 0.65% of the stock is owned by company insiders.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of the company. Marshall Wace LLP raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 204.4% in the third quarter. Marshall Wace LLP now owns 123,124 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $13,690,000 after purchasing an additional 82,677 shares during the last quarter. Belpointe Asset Management LLC acquired a new position in Darden Restaurants during the third quarter worth $727,000. Vanguard Group Inc. increased its holdings in Darden Restaurants by 5.2% during the third quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 13,687,194 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $1,521,879,000 after buying an additional 673,563 shares during the last quarter. Legal & General Group Plc increased its holdings in Darden Restaurants by 4.9% during the third quarter. Legal & General Group Plc now owns 679,311 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $75,537,000 after buying an additional 32,021 shares during the last quarter. Finally, TIAA CREF Investment Management LLC increased its holdings in Darden Restaurants by 0.3% during the third quarter. TIAA CREF Investment Management LLC now owns 273,563 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $30,417,000 after buying an additional 751 shares during the last quarter. Institutional investors own 90.52% of the company’s stock.

Darden Restaurants Company Profile

Darden Restaurants, Inc, through its subsidiaries, owns and operates full-service restaurants in the United States and Canada. As of May 27, 2018, it owned and operated approximately 1,746 restaurants under the Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and Eddie V's brands.

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Analyst Recommendations for Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI)

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