Northwest Natural Gas Company (NYSE:NWN) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a note issued to investors on Wednesday.

According to Zacks, “NW Natural is principally engaged in the distribution of natural gas. The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) has allocated to NW Natural as its exclusive service area a major portion of western Oregon, including the Portland metropolitan area, most of the fertile Willamette Valley and the coastal area from Astoria to Coos Bay. NW Natural also holds certificates from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) granting it exclusive rights to serve portions of three Washington counties bordering the Columbia River. “

Separately, Guggenheim assumed coverage on Northwest Natural Gas Company in a research report on Thursday, November 3rd. They issued a “neutral” rating for the company. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, two have given a hold rating, one has assigned a buy rating and one has given a strong buy rating to the stock. The stock has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $64.50.

Shares of Northwest Natural Gas Company (NYSE:NWN) opened at 58.65 on Wednesday. Northwest Natural Gas Company has a 52 week low of $48.90 and a 52 week high of $66.17. The firm has a market capitalization of $1.62 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 26.84 and a beta of 0.31. The stock has a 50 day moving average price of $59.37 and a 200-day moving average price of $60.38.

Northwest Natural Gas Company (NYSE:NWN) last announced its earnings results on Wednesday, November 2nd. The company reported ($0.29) earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of ($0.34) by $0.05. The firm earned $87.73 million during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $70.12 million. Northwest Natural Gas Company had a return on equity of 7.87% and a net margin of 8.96%. The business’s revenue was down 5.8% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the firm earned ($0.24) EPS. On average, analysts anticipate that Northwest Natural Gas Company will post $2.21 EPS for the current year.

The business also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Wednesday, February 15th. Shareholders of record on Tuesday, January 31st will be paid a dividend of $0.47 per share. This represents a $1.88 annualized dividend and a yield of 3.21%. Northwest Natural Gas Company’s dividend payout ratio is presently 85.84%.

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In other Northwest Natural Gas Company news, insider Lea Anne Doolittle sold 600 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, December 30th. The stock was sold at an average price of $59.73, for a total transaction of $35,838.00. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now directly owns 88 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $5,256.24. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which can be accessed through this hyperlink. Company insiders own 2.07% of the company’s stock.

A number of hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of NWN. Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V. increased its stake in Northwest Natural Gas Company by 22.8% in the second quarter. Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V. now owns 154,281 shares of the company’s stock valued at $10,001,000 after buying an additional 28,639 shares in the last quarter. Fisher Asset Management LLC increased its stake in Northwest Natural Gas Company by 2.5% in the third quarter. Fisher Asset Management LLC now owns 237,383 shares of the company’s stock valued at $14,269,000 after buying an additional 5,801 shares in the last quarter. Creative Planning increased its stake in Northwest Natural Gas Company by 19.3% in the third quarter. Creative Planning now owns 1,852 shares of the company’s stock valued at $111,000 after buying an additional 300 shares in the last quarter. Hennessy Advisors Inc. increased its stake in Northwest Natural Gas Company by 13.0% in the third quarter. Hennessy Advisors Inc. now owns 234,286 shares of the company’s stock valued at $14,083,000 after buying an additional 27,000 shares in the last quarter. Finally, JPMorgan Chase & Co. increased its stake in Northwest Natural Gas Company by 23.9% in the third quarter. JPMorgan Chase & Co. now owns 407,829 shares of the company’s stock valued at $24,515,000 after buying an additional 78,630 shares in the last quarter. 58.98% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

About Northwest Natural Gas Company

Northwest Natural Gas Company is engaged in the distribution of natural gas. The Company’s segments include Local Gas Distribution, Gas Storage and other. The Company maintains operations in Oregon, Washington and California and conducts businesses through NW Natural and its subsidiaries. The local gas distribution business, referred to as the utility segment, serves residential, commercial, and industrial customers in Oregon and southwest Washington.

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