Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a report issued on Saturday. Zacks Investment Research currently has $114.00 price objective on the retailer’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Wal-Mart Stores, which recently announced plans to drop the “hyphen” and “stores” from its name to officially emerge as an omnichannel retailer, has surpassed the industry in a year. The company has been riding on its robust past record, which derives strength from constant e-commerce initiatives, like buyouts, alliances, surging grocery business and improved delivery systems. Thanks to these trends, along with solid traffic, Walmart’s third-quarter fiscal 2018 marked its ninth and 13th straight quarter of positive earnings surprise and comps growth, respectively. Also, the company’s international business remains a growth driver. However, costs associated with technological and e-commerce investments; mix impact from growing e-commerce operations and a compelling pricing strategy have been hurting Walmart’s gross margin for a while now. Stiff competition and volatile consumer spending also pose threats.”

Several other analysts also recently issued reports on WMT. Robert W. Baird reissued a buy rating and issued a $85.00 price target on shares of Wal-Mart Stores in a research report on Sunday, September 17th. Royal Bank of Canada set a $77.00 price objective on Wal-Mart Stores and gave the company a sell rating in a research note on Monday, September 18th. KeyCorp restated a buy rating and set a $90.00 price objective on shares of Wal-Mart Stores in a research note on Tuesday, September 19th. Goldman Sachs Group set a $87.00 price objective on Wal-Mart Stores and gave the company a buy rating in a research note on Tuesday, October 3rd. Finally, JPMorgan Chase & Co. restated a neutral rating and set a $84.00 price objective (up from $80.00) on shares of Wal-Mart Stores in a research note on Friday, October 6th. Eighteen analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating, sixteen have given a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the company. The stock presently has a consensus rating of Buy and an average target price of $98.46.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE WMT) opened at $100.87 on Friday. Wal-Mart Stores has a 52-week low of $65.28 and a 52-week high of $102.35. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.52, a current ratio of 0.81 and a quick ratio of 0.19. The stock has a market cap of $298,820.00, a price-to-earnings ratio of 26.83, a P/E/G ratio of 3.71 and a beta of 0.37.

Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) last posted its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, November 16th. The retailer reported $1.00 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $0.97 by $0.03. Wal-Mart Stores had a net margin of 2.31% and a return on equity of 16.92%. The business had revenue of $122.14 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $120.23 billion. During the same quarter last year, the firm posted $0.98 EPS. Wal-Mart Stores’s revenue was up 4.2% compared to the same quarter last year. equities analysts forecast that Wal-Mart Stores will post 4.43 earnings per share for the current year.

Wal-Mart Stores announced that its board has approved a share buyback program on Tuesday, October 10th that allows the company to buyback $20.00 billion in outstanding shares. This buyback authorization allows the retailer to purchase shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback programs are generally a sign that the company’s board of directors believes its stock is undervalued.

In related news, major shareholder Jim C. Walton sold 1,319,133 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, December 5th. The stock was sold at an average price of $97.61, for a total value of $128,760,572.13. Following the sale, the insider now directly owns 11,057,224 shares in the company, valued at approximately $1,079,295,634.64. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at this hyperlink. Also, insider Jacqueline P. Canney sold 2,065 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Monday, December 11th. The shares were sold at an average price of $96.99, for a total value of $200,284.35. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now owns 19,060 shares in the company, valued at $1,848,629.40. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold a total of 12,419,588 shares of company stock worth $1,207,333,538 over the last quarter. Company insiders own 51.39% of the company’s stock.

A number of institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. Sheets Smith Wealth Management bought a new stake in Wal-Mart Stores in the 4th quarter valued at about $658,000. Stillwater Capital Advisors LLC bought a new stake in Wal-Mart Stores in the 4th quarter valued at about $9,445,000. Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. raised its stake in Wal-Mart Stores by 47.8% in the 4th quarter. Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. now owns 3,310 shares of the retailer’s stock valued at $327,000 after acquiring an additional 1,070 shares during the period. Lathrop Investment Management Corp raised its stake in Wal-Mart Stores by 3.5% in the 4th quarter. Lathrop Investment Management Corp now owns 175,302 shares of the retailer’s stock valued at $17,311,000 after acquiring an additional 5,942 shares during the period. Finally, Rowland & Co. Investment Counsel ADV raised its stake in Wal-Mart Stores by 1.6% in the 4th quarter. Rowland & Co. Investment Counsel ADV now owns 71,138 shares of the retailer’s stock valued at $7,053,000 after acquiring an additional 1,105 shares during the period. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 30.58% of the company’s stock.

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Wal-Mart Stores Company Profile

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc is engaged in the operation of retail, wholesale and other units in various formats around the world. The Company operates through three segments: Walmart U.S., Walmart International and Sam’s Club. The Walmart U.S. segment includes its mass merchant concept in the United States operating under the Walmart or Wal-Mart brands, as well as digital retail.

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