Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Ecolab Inc. (NYSE:ECL) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a report released on Thursday morning.

According to Zacks, “Over the last six months Ecolab outperformed the broader industry trends in terms of price movements. Furthermore, an upbeat outlook for 2018 instills our confidence. We believe a robust product portfolio and an expanding customer base will drive Ecolab organic sales over the long haul. In fact, the realization of targeted synergies associated with acquisitions should also pave way for margin expansion. Ecolab expects its water, food and beverage, and paper businesses to benefit in the near term. On the flipside, Ecolab operates in highly competitive markets, which might dent its prospects over the long haul. We believe volatility in foreign currency exchange rates will remain a significant headwind for the company. Ecolab faces pricing pressure in the Energy segment which is likely to hurt profits. The company exited the first quarter of 2017 on a disappointing note, missing the Zacks consensus earnings estimate.”

Other equities research analysts also recently issued research reports about the stock. Nomura upgraded shares of Ecolab from a reduce rating to a neutral rating and raised their price objective for the company from $99.00 to $118.00 in a research report on Monday, April 3rd. Canaccord Genuity restated a buy rating and issued a $135.00 price objective on shares of Ecolab in a research report on Monday, May 1st. Oppenheimer Holdings, Inc. restated an outperform rating and issued a $141.00 price objective (up previously from $133.00) on shares of Ecolab in a research report on Friday, June 2nd. Instinet upgraded shares of Ecolab from a reduce rating to a neutral rating and raised their price objective for the company from $99.00 to $118.00 in a research report on Monday, April 3rd. Finally, J P Morgan Chase & Co upgraded shares of Ecolab from a neutral rating to an overweight rating and raised their price objective for the company from $120.00 to $138.00 in a research report on Friday, May 26th. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, eight have issued a hold rating and nine have issued a buy rating to the company. The stock presently has an average rating of Hold and an average target price of $129.79.

Shares of Ecolab (NYSE ECL) traded up 0.17% during trading on Thursday, hitting $132.15. The stock had a trading volume of 174,583 shares. The stock has a market cap of $38.33 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 31.22 and a beta of 0.98. Ecolab has a 12-month low of $110.65 and a 12-month high of $134.89. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $132.73 and its 200-day moving average is $126.93.

Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) last announced its earnings results on Tuesday, May 2nd. The basic materials company reported $0.80 earnings per share for the quarter, missing the consensus estimate of $0.81 by $0.01. Ecolab had a return on equity of 18.96% and a net margin of 9.47%. The business had revenue of $3.17 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $3.16 billion. During the same quarter last year, the company posted $0.77 EPS. Ecolab’s quarterly revenue was up 2.2% on a year-over-year basis. On average, equities research analysts expect that Ecolab will post $4.78 EPS for the current year.

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The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Monday, July 17th. Stockholders of record on Tuesday, June 20th were paid a dividend of $0.37 per share. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Friday, June 16th. This represents a $1.48 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 1.12%. Ecolab’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is 34.91%.

In other news, EVP Stephen M. Taylor sold 23,151 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, June 9th. The shares were sold at an average price of $133.06, for a total transaction of $3,080,472.06. Following the completion of the transaction, the executive vice president now directly owns 44,466 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $5,916,645.96. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is available at the SEC website. Also, Director Carl M. Casale acquired 5,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, May 5th. The shares were acquired at an average cost of $126.33 per share, with a total value of $631,650.00. Following the completion of the purchase, the director now owns 11,495 shares in the company, valued at $1,452,163.35. The disclosure for this purchase can be found here. Over the last three months, insiders have sold 44,810 shares of company stock valued at $5,897,361. Corporate insiders own 1.49% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of the company. Douglass Winthrop Advisors LLC boosted its position in shares of Ecolab by 2.9% in the first quarter. Douglass Winthrop Advisors LLC now owns 275,285 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $34,504,000 after buying an additional 7,782 shares during the period. Raymond James Trust N.A. boosted its stake in Ecolab by 6.4% in the first quarter. Raymond James Trust N.A. now owns 16,648 shares of the basic materials company’s stock valued at $2,086,000 after buying an additional 1,002 shares during the last quarter. Northstar Group Inc. purchased a new stake in Ecolab during the first quarter valued at approximately $418,000. Fulton Bank N.A. purchased a new stake in Ecolab during the first quarter valued at approximately $320,000. Finally, Chevy Chase Trust Holdings Inc. boosted its stake in Ecolab by 7.6% in the first quarter. Chevy Chase Trust Holdings Inc. now owns 522,078 shares of the basic materials company’s stock valued at $65,437,000 after buying an additional 36,954 shares during the last quarter. 75.84% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

About Ecolab

Ecolab Inc provides water, hygiene and energy technologies and services. The Company’s cleaning and sanitizing programs and products, pest elimination services and equipment maintenance and repair services support customers in the foodservice, food and beverage processing, hospitality, healthcare, government and education, retail, textile care and commercial facilities management sectors in over 170 countries.

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