Westpac Banking Corp lowered its position in Merck & Company, Inc. (NYSE:MRK) by 3.8% during the first quarter, according to its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The fund owned 509,831 shares of the company’s stock after selling 20,322 shares during the period. Westpac Banking Corp’s holdings in Merck & were worth $30,809,000 at the end of the most recent reporting period.

A number of other hedge funds have also recently made changes to their positions in the company. Vigilant Capital Management LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & by 16.7% in the first quarter. Vigilant Capital Management LLC now owns 1,746 shares of the company’s stock worth $111,000 after buying an additional 250 shares during the period. Gradient Investments LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & by 41.3% in the first quarter. Gradient Investments LLC now owns 2,306 shares of the company’s stock worth $147,000 after buying an additional 674 shares during the period. Pinnacle Bank purchased a new stake in shares of Merck & during the first quarter worth about $152,000. Tortoise Investment Management LLC increased its stake in shares of Merck & by 50.6% in the fourth quarter. Tortoise Investment Management LLC now owns 2,678 shares of the company’s stock worth $158,000 after buying an additional 900 shares during the period. Finally, Thomas J. Herzfeld Advisors Inc. purchased a new stake in shares of Merck & during the fourth quarter worth about $159,000. 73.73% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Shares of Merck & Company, Inc. (NYSE MRK) opened at 62.84 on Tuesday. Merck & Company, Inc. has a 52-week low of $57.18 and a 52-week high of $66.80. The firm has a market capitalization of $171.88 billion, a PE ratio of 34.02 and a beta of 0.80. The company’s 50-day moving average is $63.65 and its 200 day moving average is $63.78.

Merck & (NYSE:MRK) last released its earnings results on Friday, July 28th. The company reported $1.01 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.87 by $0.14. The company had revenue of $9.93 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $9.75 billion. Merck & had a net margin of 17.14% and a return on equity of 25.75%. The firm’s quarterly revenue was up .9% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the firm earned $0.93 EPS. Equities analysts expect that Merck & Company, Inc. will post $3.87 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The company also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, October 6th. Shareholders of record on Friday, September 15th will be issued a $0.47 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Thursday, September 14th. This represents a $1.88 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.99%. Merck &’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is 76.11%.

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MRK has been the topic of several recent analyst reports. J P Morgan Chase & Co increased their price objective on shares of Merck & from $74.00 to $76.00 and gave the company an “overweight” rating in a report on Thursday, May 11th. Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of Merck & from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a report on Wednesday, August 2nd. Credit Suisse Group reaffirmed a “buy” rating on shares of Merck & in a report on Tuesday, June 13th. Vetr raised shares of Merck & from a “sell” rating to a “strong-buy” rating and set a $71.50 price objective on the stock in a report on Monday, May 15th. Finally, Cowen and Company reaffirmed a “market perform” rating and set a $70.00 price objective (up from $68.00) on shares of Merck & in a report on Thursday, May 11th. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have assigned a hold rating and twelve have assigned a buy rating to the company. The company presently has an average rating of “Hold” and a consensus target price of $69.80.

In other Merck & news, Director C Robert Kidder sold 5,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, May 12th. The shares were sold at an average price of $63.54, for a total value of $317,700.00. Following the transaction, the director now directly owns 14,317 shares in the company, valued at approximately $909,702.18. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. 0.05% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Merck & Company Profile

Merck & Co, Inc is a global healthcare company. The Company offers health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products. It operates through four segments: Pharmaceutical, Animal Health, Healthcare Services and Alliances. The Company’s Pharmaceutical segment includes human health pharmaceutical and vaccine products marketed either directly by the Company or through joint ventures.

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Institutional Ownership by Quarter for Merck & (NYSE:MRK)

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