Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Hershey (NYSE:HSY) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report report published on Friday morning. The brokerage currently has $128.00 target price on the stock.

According to Zacks, “Hershey’s shares have outperformed the industry year to date. This price performance is backed by impressive earnings surprise history, with the company having surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in all the trailing four quarters. Growth in its core brands, successful innovation and progress in multi-year productivity, and cost-saving initiatives drove the outperformance. However, economic slowdown in China and softening chocolate category trends have been hurting Hershey’s international sales since 2015. Notably, earnings estimate for the current year and next have remained stable over the last 60 days, limiting upside potential for the stock.”

Several other research analysts have also issued reports on the company. BMO Capital Markets reissued a hold rating and issued a $105.00 target price on shares of Hershey in a research report on Friday, October 27th. Citigroup increased their target price on Hershey from $126.00 to $130.00 and gave the stock a buy rating in a research report on Friday, October 27th. UBS Group decreased their target price on Hershey from $110.00 to $106.00 and set a neutral rating for the company in a research report on Friday, October 27th. Susquehanna Bancshares set a $113.00 target price on Hershey and gave the stock a hold rating in a research report on Thursday, October 26th. Finally, Royal Bank of Canada reissued a hold rating and issued a $122.00 target price on shares of Hershey in a research report on Friday, December 22nd. Two equities research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have given a hold rating and five have given a buy rating to the company. The company has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $114.02.

Hershey (HSY) opened at $113.51 on Friday. Hershey has a 52-week low of $101.61 and a 52-week high of $116.49. The stock has a market capitalization of $24,100.00, a P/E ratio of 33.78, a PEG ratio of 3.09 and a beta of 0.39. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 2.45, a current ratio of 0.95 and a quick ratio of 0.55.

Hershey (NYSE:HSY) last announced its earnings results on Thursday, October 26th. The company reported $1.33 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $1.29 by $0.04. Hershey had a return on equity of 124.06% and a net margin of 9.52%. The firm had revenue of $2.03 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $2.01 billion. During the same quarter in the prior year, the company earned $1.29 EPS. The business’s revenue was up 1.5% compared to the same quarter last year. research analysts expect that Hershey will post 4.8 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, December 15th. Investors of record on Wednesday, November 22nd were paid a $0.656 dividend. The ex-dividend date was Tuesday, November 21st. This represents a $2.62 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.31%. Hershey’s payout ratio is currently 77.98%.

Hershey announced that its board has authorized a stock repurchase program on Thursday, October 26th that authorizes the company to repurchase $100.00 million in outstanding shares. This repurchase authorization authorizes the company to reacquire shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock repurchase programs are often a sign that the company’s leadership believes its stock is undervalued.

In other Hershey news, insider Michele Buck sold 400 shares of the stock in a transaction on Thursday, November 9th. The stock was sold at an average price of $108.00, for a total transaction of $43,200.00. Following the sale, the insider now directly owns 164,897 shares in the company, valued at approximately $17,808,876. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, SVP D Michael Wege sold 1,100 shares of the stock in a transaction on Monday, October 16th. The shares were sold at an average price of $110.26, for a total value of $121,286.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold a total of 32,949 shares of company stock worth $3,597,420 in the last 90 days. 0.92% of the stock is currently owned by company insiders.

A number of institutional investors and hedge funds have recently modified their holdings of HSY. Schwab Charles Investment Management Inc. boosted its stake in Hershey by 6.0% during the 2nd quarter. Schwab Charles Investment Management Inc. now owns 463,696 shares of the company’s stock valued at $49,788,000 after purchasing an additional 26,163 shares during the last quarter. Victory Capital Management Inc. boosted its stake in Hershey by 15.8% during the 2nd quarter. Victory Capital Management Inc. now owns 14,195 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,524,000 after purchasing an additional 1,941 shares during the last quarter. Pacer Advisors Inc. boosted its stake in Hershey by 8.1% during the 2nd quarter. Pacer Advisors Inc. now owns 3,469 shares of the company’s stock valued at $372,000 after purchasing an additional 261 shares during the last quarter. Principal Financial Group Inc. boosted its stake in Hershey by 1.0% during the 2nd quarter. Principal Financial Group Inc. now owns 222,900 shares of the company’s stock valued at $23,932,000 after purchasing an additional 2,209 shares during the last quarter. Finally, ARGI Investment Services LLC boosted its stake in Hershey by 7.1% during the 2nd quarter. ARGI Investment Services LLC now owns 8,038 shares of the company’s stock valued at $863,000 after purchasing an additional 536 shares during the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 51.24% of the company’s stock.

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About Hershey

The Hershey Company is a producer of chocolate in North America. The Company’s principal product offerings include chocolate and non-chocolate confectionery products; gum and mint refreshment products; pantry items, such as baking ingredients and beverages, and snack items, such as spreads, meat snacks, bars and snack bites and mixes.

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