Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Alaska Air Group (NYSE:ALK) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a research report sent to investors on Tuesday morning.

According to Zacks, “Shares of Alaska Air Group have underperformed its industry in a year's time. Adding to its woes, the company’s load factor in February declined as capacity expansion outweighed traffic growth. The metric declined in January as well. Moreover, high labor and fuel costs affected the company’s bottom line. Apart from high labor and fuel costs, expenses related to the acquisition of Virgin America are limiting bottom-line growth. The company's below-par performance with respect to unit revenues also remains a concern. In fact, the pessimism surrounding the company is further evident from the Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings being revised 12.9% downward in the last 60 days. We are, however, impressed by the company’s efforts to reward shareholders through dividends and buybacks. “

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A number of other analysts have also weighed in on the stock. Morgan Stanley set a $78.00 target price on shares of Alaska Air Group and gave the company a buy rating in a research report on Friday, February 23rd. UBS lowered shares of Alaska Air Group from a buy rating to a neutral rating in a research report on Thursday, February 15th. Imperial Capital restated an in-line rating and issued a $66.00 target price (down previously from $70.00) on shares of Alaska Air Group in a research report on Thursday, February 1st. JPMorgan Chase & Co. downgraded shares of Alaska Air Group from a neutral rating to an underweight rating and raised their price target for the company from $65.48 to $67.00 in a research note on Tuesday, January 30th. Finally, Buckingham Research dropped their price target on shares of Alaska Air Group from $90.00 to $88.00 and set a buy rating for the company in a research note on Friday, January 26th. Three research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, four have assigned a hold rating, eight have given a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock currently has an average rating of Hold and an average price target of $84.69.

Shares of Alaska Air Group (NYSE:ALK) opened at $62.82 on Tuesday. Alaska Air Group has a 52-week low of $59.25 and a 52-week high of $97.06. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.61, a current ratio of 0.79 and a quick ratio of 0.77. The firm has a market cap of $8,018.15, a P/E ratio of 7.59, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 1.00 and a beta of 0.84.

Alaska Air Group (NYSE:ALK) last issued its earnings results on Thursday, January 25th. The transportation company reported $0.83 earnings per share for the quarter, meeting analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.83. Alaska Air Group had a net margin of 12.96% and a return on equity of 24.39%. The firm had revenue of $1.96 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $1.96 billion. During the same quarter last year, the business posted $1.56 earnings per share. The company’s quarterly revenue was up 28.7% on a year-over-year basis. equities research analysts expect that Alaska Air Group will post 5.71 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Thursday, March 8th. Stockholders of record on Tuesday, February 20th were paid a dividend of $0.32 per share. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Friday, February 16th. This represents a $1.28 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.04%. This is an increase from Alaska Air Group’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.30. Alaska Air Group’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 15.46%.

In related news, EVP Andrew R. Harrison sold 2,350 shares of Alaska Air Group stock in a transaction on Thursday, March 8th. The shares were sold at an average price of $64.88, for a total transaction of $152,468.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the executive vice president now owns 24,092 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $1,563,088.96. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through this link. Also, CEO Gary L. Beck sold 6,360 shares of Alaska Air Group stock in a transaction on Friday, March 9th. The stock was sold at an average price of $65.10, for a total transaction of $414,036.00. Following the transaction, the chief executive officer now directly owns 3,316 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $215,871.60. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold 13,373 shares of company stock valued at $884,697 in the last ninety days. Insiders own 0.57% of the company’s stock.

A number of hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in ALK. Exane Derivatives bought a new position in Alaska Air Group during the fourth quarter worth $105,000. Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Co. bought a new position in Alaska Air Group during the third quarter worth $153,000. Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management Co. Ltd. raised its stake in Alaska Air Group by 55.3% during the fourth quarter. Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management Co. Ltd. now owns 2,495 shares of the transportation company’s stock worth $186,000 after buying an additional 888 shares during the last quarter. Harbour Capital Advisors LLC bought a new position in Alaska Air Group during the third quarter worth $200,000. Finally, Wetherby Asset Management Inc. bought a new position in Alaska Air Group during the fourth quarter worth $206,000. 86.32% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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Alaska Air Group Company Profile

Alaska Air Group, Inc is the holding company of Alaska Airlines (Alaska), Virgin America Inc, Horizon Air (Horizon) and other business units. The Company operates through three segments: Mainline, Regional and Horizon. Its Mainline segment includes Alaska’s and Virgin America’s scheduled air transportation for passengers and cargo throughout the United States, and in parts of Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and Cuba.

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