Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:DRI) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research note released on Friday morning.

According to Zacks, “Most of Darden’s brands have been witnessing growth over the past few quarters on the back of sales initiatives like simplifying kitchen systems, improving in-restaurant execution to enhance guest experience menu innovation and technology-driven moves. Moreover, the company’s Olive Garden Brand Renaissance plan – aimed to turn around its business – has started reaping benefits. Also, the company’s efforts to check costs are commendable. Backed by these positives, Darden’s first-quarter fiscal 2017 earnings beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the eighth consecutive quarter. The company also raised its guidance for fiscal 2017 earnings. Meanwhile, initiatives undertaken to attract guests at LongHorn and other units also bode well. However, rising labor costs and a non-franchised business model might dampen the company’s profits, while a soft consumer spending environment could keep comps under pressure.”

Other research analysts also recently issued research reports about the stock. Credit Suisse Group AG reaffirmed a buy rating and issued a $69.00 price target on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research note on Wednesday, October 5th. Canaccord Genuity initiated coverage on shares of Darden Restaurants in a report on Monday, August 22nd. They set a buy rating and a $74.00 target price on the stock. BMO Capital Markets reiterated a hold rating and set a $64.00 target price on shares of Darden Restaurants in a report on Thursday, September 1st. Morgan Stanley reiterated a hold rating and set a $67.00 target price on shares of Darden Restaurants in a report on Tuesday, September 27th. Finally, Wells Fargo & Co. reiterated a market perform rating and set a $68.00 target price on shares of Darden Restaurants in a report on Wednesday, September 28th. Two equities research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, fourteen have issued a hold rating and ten have assigned a buy rating to the company. The company currently has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $70.79.

Shares of Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) opened at 72.88 on Friday. The company has a market cap of $8.97 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 23.53 and a beta of 0.23. Darden Restaurants has a one year low of $55.01 and a one year high of $74.99. The firm has a 50-day moving average of $66.59 and a 200-day moving average of $64.26.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) last posted its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday, October 4th. The restaurant operator reported $0.88 EPS for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.82 by $0.06. The company had revenue of $1.71 billion for the quarter. Darden Restaurants had a net margin of 5.73% and a return on equity of 24.97%. The company’s quarterly revenue was up 1.6% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the business earned $0.68 EPS. Equities research analysts forecast that Darden Restaurants will post $3.93 EPS for the current fiscal year.

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The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, November 1st. Shareholders of record on Monday, October 10th were given a dividend of $0.56 per share. This represents a $2.24 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 3.07%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Wednesday, October 5th. Darden Restaurants’s dividend payout ratio is presently 72.03%.

In other news, SVP Danielle L. Kirgan sold 28,127 shares of Darden Restaurants stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, October 10th. The shares were sold at an average price of $62.47, for a total transaction of $1,757,093.69. Following the completion of the transaction, the senior vice president now directly owns 15,989 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $998,832.83. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Also, SVP Danielle L. Kirgan sold 8,780 shares of Darden Restaurants stock in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, October 11th. The shares were sold at an average price of $62.47, for a total transaction of $548,486.60. Following the transaction, the senior vice president now directly owns 15,989 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $998,832.83. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Company insiders own 0.69% of the company’s stock.

Institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of the stock. NN Investment Partners Holdings N.V. raised its position in Darden Restaurants by 837.0% in the second quarter. NN Investment Partners Holdings N.V. now owns 661,872 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $41,921,000 after buying an additional 591,232 shares during the period. Franklin Street Advisors Inc. NC raised its position in Darden Restaurants by 28.5% in the second quarter. Franklin Street Advisors Inc. NC now owns 59,980 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $3,799,000 after buying an additional 13,293 shares during the period. GW&K Investment Management LLC raised its position in Darden Restaurants by 6.6% in the second quarter. GW&K Investment Management LLC now owns 381,922 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $24,191,000 after buying an additional 23,780 shares during the period. Gulf International Bank UK Ltd raised its position in Darden Restaurants by 2.6% in the second quarter. Gulf International Bank UK Ltd now owns 36,924 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $2,338,000 after buying an additional 950 shares during the period. Finally, Exxonmobil Investment Management Inc. TX raised its position in Darden Restaurants by 5.1% in the second quarter. Exxonmobil Investment Management Inc. TX now owns 29,523 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $1,870,000 after buying an additional 1,423 shares during the period. 88.85% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Darden Restaurants Company Profile

Darden Restaurants, Inc is a full-service restaurant company. The Company owned and operated 1,536 restaurants through its subsidiaries in the United States and Canada, as of May 29, 2016. The Company’s segments include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Fine Dining (which includes The Capital Grille, and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Wildfish Seafood Grille (Eddie V’s)) and Other Business (which includes Yard House, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, consumer-packaged goods and franchise revenues).

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