Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Aflac Incorporated (NYSE:AFL) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a report published on Friday morning.

According to Zacks, “Aflac shares have outperformed its industry year to date. Efforts to increase agent productivity, emphasis on sale of third-sector products, pull back on sale of first-sector products, and the introduction of new products like cancer insurance are likely to drive long-term growth. Its strong capital position enables it to buy back shares and increase dividend payouts. However, the company remains exposed to a challenging operating environment, primarily in Japan. Charges related to Japan’s branch conversion and foreign exchange volatility are some headwinds faced by the company.”

Several other equities research analysts have also issued reports on the stock. Bank of America Corporation lowered shares of Aflac from a neutral rating to an underperform rating in a report on Friday. UBS AG reissued an overweight rating on shares of Aflac in a report on Thursday, August 24th. Barclays PLC boosted their price target on shares of Aflac from $73.00 to $79.00 and gave the company an equal weight rating in a report on Friday, August 11th. ValuEngine raised shares of Aflac from a hold rating to a buy rating in a report on Tuesday, August 1st. Finally, BidaskClub lowered shares of Aflac from a sell rating to a strong sell rating in a report on Tuesday, August 1st. Four research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, seven have issued a hold rating and five have issued a buy rating to the stock. The stock currently has an average rating of Hold and an average price target of $77.32.

Aflac (NYSE AFL) opened at 82.47 on Friday. The stock has a 50 day moving average of $80.54 and a 200 day moving average of $76.18. The firm has a market capitalization of $32.59 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 12.47 and a beta of 0.97. Aflac has a 12-month low of $66.50 and a 12-month high of $83.39.

Aflac (NYSE:AFL) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, July 27th. The financial services provider reported $1.83 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $1.63 by $0.20. The firm had revenue of $5.43 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $5.48 billion. Aflac had a net margin of 11.98% and a return on equity of 13.09%. The business’s revenue for the quarter was down .2% on a year-over-year basis. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm posted $1.65 EPS. Equities research analysts anticipate that Aflac will post $6.69 earnings per share for the current year.

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Aflac announced that its Board of Directors has approved a share repurchase program on Tuesday, August 8th that authorizes the company to buyback 40,000,000 outstanding shares. This buyback authorization authorizes the financial services provider to reacquire shares of its stock through open market purchases. Shares buyback programs are often an indication that the company’s leadership believes its shares are undervalued.

The business also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, September 1st. Shareholders of record on Wednesday, August 23rd were issued a dividend of $0.43 per share. This represents a $1.72 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.09%. The ex-dividend date was Monday, August 21st. Aflac’s dividend payout ratio is currently 25.94%.

In other Aflac news, President Kriss Cloninger III sold 2,500 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Thursday, June 15th. The shares were sold at an average price of $77.72, for a total transaction of $194,300.00. Following the sale, the president now owns 241,646 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $18,780,727.12. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through this hyperlink. Also, insider Teresa L. White sold 11,314 shares of the stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, June 27th. The stock was sold at an average price of $78.01, for a total transaction of $882,605.14. Following the sale, the insider now directly owns 26,847 shares in the company, valued at approximately $2,094,334.47. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last three months, insiders have sold 17,314 shares of company stock worth $1,360,615. Insiders own 3.00% of the company’s stock.

A number of large investors have recently modified their holdings of the business. Toronto Dominion Bank grew its holdings in Aflac by 2.8% during the 2nd quarter. Toronto Dominion Bank now owns 135,593 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $10,531,000 after acquiring an additional 3,666 shares during the last quarter. Cookson Peirce & Co. Inc. grew its holdings in Aflac by 3.0% during the 2nd quarter. Cookson Peirce & Co. Inc. now owns 8,915 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $693,000 after acquiring an additional 260 shares during the last quarter. Cetera Investment Advisers bought a new stake in Aflac during the 2nd quarter worth about $609,000. Advisory Services Network LLC grew its holdings in Aflac by 1.0% during the 2nd quarter. Advisory Services Network LLC now owns 4,915 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $382,000 after acquiring an additional 49 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Dynamic Technology Lab Private Ltd bought a new stake in Aflac during the 2nd quarter worth about $358,000. 65.66% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

About Aflac

Aflac Incorporated is a business holding company. The Company is involved in supplemental health and life insurance, which is marketed and administered through its subsidiary, American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (Aflac). The Company’s insurance business consists of two segments: Aflac Japan and Aflac U.S.

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Analyst Recommendations for Aflac (NYSE:AFL)

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