Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Hershey Company (The) (NYSE:HSY) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research note published on Monday morning.

According to Zacks, “Hershey’s earnings and revenues beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate in third-quarter 2017. Earnings also improved from the year-ago level by 3.1%. Growth in its core brands, successful innovation and progress in multi-year productivity, and cost-saving initiatives drove the outperformance. Net sales improved 1.5% year over year owing to strong demand for products like Kisses, Kit Kat and Chocolate Dipped Pretzels. This marked the sixth straight quarter of sales rise after a few quarters of no growth. Organic sales grew 1.1% as demand strengthened in the United States. However, Hershey’s adjusted gross margin declined 30 basis points due to higher freight rates, manufacturing and distribution costs and unfavorable sales mix. Shares of Hershey’s lost around 4% in the last six months. Estimates for the fourth quarter and 2017 also moved down 3.5% and 0.2%, respectively, reflecting analysts’ concern.”

Several other research firms also recently issued reports on HSY. Susquehanna Bancshares Inc set a $113.00 price objective on Hershey Company (The) and gave the company a hold rating in a report on Thursday, October 26th. Credit Suisse Group reiterated a buy rating and issued a $121.00 price objective on shares of Hershey Company (The) in a report on Friday, July 28th. Deutsche Bank AG reiterated a hold rating and issued a $111.00 price objective (down previously from $112.00) on shares of Hershey Company (The) in a report on Thursday, July 27th. Royal Bank Of Canada reiterated a hold rating and issued a $114.00 price objective on shares of Hershey Company (The) in a report on Friday, July 21st. Finally, Morgan Stanley lowered their target price on Hershey Company (The) from $111.00 to $108.00 and set an equal weight rating for the company in a research note on Tuesday, July 18th. Three equities research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have issued a hold rating and four have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. Hershey Company (The) presently has a consensus rating of Hold and an average target price of $113.35.

Hershey Company (HSY) traded down $0.81 during mid-day trading on Monday, hitting $105.92. The company had a trading volume of 809,369 shares, compared to its average volume of 1,021,133. The stock has a market cap of $22.64 billion, a PE ratio of 21.75 and a beta of 0.36.

Hershey Company (The) (NYSE:HSY) last posted its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, October 26th. The company reported $1.33 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $1.29 by $0.04. The firm had revenue of $2.03 billion for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $2.01 billion. Hershey Company (The) had a return on equity of 124.06% and a net margin of 9.52%. The company’s quarterly revenue was up 1.5% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter in the previous year, the business earned $1.29 EPS. equities analysts anticipate that Hershey Company will post 4.8 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

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The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, December 15th. Stockholders of record on Wednesday, November 22nd will be given a dividend of $0.656 per share. The ex-dividend date is Tuesday, November 21st. This represents a $2.62 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.48%. Hershey Company (The)’s dividend payout ratio is currently 77.98%.

Hershey Company (The) declared that its board has initiated a stock buyback program on Thursday, October 26th that allows the company to buyback $100.00 million in shares. This buyback authorization allows the company to purchase shares of its stock through open market purchases. Shares buyback programs are generally an indication that the company’s board believes its stock is undervalued.

In other news, VP Javier H. Idrovo sold 15,132 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, October 11th. The stock was sold at an average price of $110.04, for a total transaction of $1,665,125.28. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this link. Also, SVP D Michael Wege sold 1,100 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, August 15th. The stock was sold at an average price of $105.90, for a total value of $116,490.00. Following the transaction, the senior vice president now directly owns 27,766 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $2,940,419.40. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last ninety days, insiders have sold 4,519,232 shares of company stock valued at $479,154,674. Insiders own 0.92% of the company’s stock.

Large investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. WFG Advisors LP boosted its position in shares of Hershey Company (The) by 25.2% during the 2nd quarter. WFG Advisors LP now owns 998 shares of the company’s stock worth $107,000 after acquiring an additional 201 shares in the last quarter. Sun Life Financial INC boosted its position in shares of Hershey Company (The) by 12,637.5% in the 2nd quarter. Sun Life Financial INC now owns 1,019 shares of the company’s stock valued at $109,000 after purchasing an additional 1,011 shares during the period. QCI Asset Management Inc. NY boosted its position in shares of Hershey Company (The) by 10.8% in the 2nd quarter. QCI Asset Management Inc. NY now owns 1,024 shares of the company’s stock valued at $110,000 after purchasing an additional 100 shares during the period. Fiduciary Trust Co. acquired a new stake in shares of Hershey Company (The) in the 2nd quarter valued at about $125,000. Finally, Invictus RG acquired a new stake in shares of Hershey Company (The) in the 1st quarter valued at about $155,000. 49.93% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

About Hershey Company (The)

The Hershey Company is a producer of chocolate in North America. The Company’s principal product offerings include chocolate and non-chocolate confectionery products; gum and mint refreshment products; pantry items, such as baking ingredients and beverages, and snack items, such as spreads, meat snacks, bars and snack bites and mixes.

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Analyst Recommendations for Hershey Company (The) (NYSE:HSY)

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