Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Southern (NYSE:SO) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research note released on Tuesday morning. They currently have $52.00 price objective 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. Sporting a low beta – translating into less volatility – and a reasonable valuation, Southern Company is seen as an attractive investment.”

Several other analysts have also weighed in on the stock. Guggenheim reiterated a hold rating and set a $44.00 target price on shares of Southern in a research note on Monday, January 7th. SunTrust Banks reiterated a hold rating and set a $47.00 target price on shares of Southern in a research note on Monday, January 7th. Credit Suisse Group boosted their target price on shares of Southern from $44.00 to $46.00 and gave the company an underperform rating in a research note on Thursday, December 6th. Barclays boosted their target price on shares of Southern from $48.00 to $49.00 and gave the company a hold rating in a research note on Monday, November 19th. Finally, Morgan Stanley lowered their target price 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. Five research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, ten have issued a hold rating and one has assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. Southern presently has an average rating of Hold and an average price target of $46.29.

Shares of NYSE:SO opened at $46.79 on Tuesday. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.48, a current ratio of 0.72 and a quick ratio of 0.58. The firm has a market capitalization of $47.49 billion, a P/E ratio of 13.86, a P/E/G ratio of 3.41 and a beta of 0.07. Southern has a 12-month low of $42.38 and a 12-month high of $49.43.

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. The business had revenue of $6.70 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $6.68 billion. Southern had a net margin of 10.35% and a return on equity of 12.88%. The business’s revenue was up 8.0% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm earned $1.12 earnings per share. Equities research analysts predict that Southern will post 3.04 earnings per share for the current year.

In other news, CEO Kimberly S. Greene sold 15,000 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction on Monday, December 3rd. The shares were sold at an average price of $47.03, for a total transaction of $705,450.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the chief executive officer now owns 9,380 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $441,141.40. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, insider Mark Lantrip sold 9,000 shares of the business’s 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. Insiders own 0.73% of the company’s stock.

Several institutional investors and hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in SO. Vigilant Capital Management LLC acquired a new position in shares of Southern during the fourth quarter valued at $30,000. IMS Capital Management acquired a new position in shares of Southern during the third quarter valued at $37,000. Arlington Partners LLC acquired a new position in shares of Southern during the fourth quarter valued at $88,000. Dubuque Bank & Trust Co. boosted its holdings in shares of Southern by 93.5% during the fourth quarter. Dubuque Bank & Trust Co. now owns 2,070 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $91,000 after acquiring an additional 1,000 shares during the period. Finally, Mackey Komara & Dankovich LLC acquired a new position in shares of Southern during the fourth quarter valued at $106,000. 56.52% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

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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