Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research note published on Friday. The brokerage currently has $158.00 price target on the stock.

According to Zacks, “Marriott is currently benefiting from Starwood acquisition, rising North-American business, sizeable international exposure and an attractive brand-position. Marriot’s shares have outpaced the industry in the past year. The company also saw upward revisions for 2018 earnings over the last 60 days. Notably, with the acquisition of Starwood, Marriott became the world's largest hotel company. In fact, this buyout is likely to result in a bigger brand with increased scale and a robust development pipeline in the long run. Yet, lingering political uncertainties in key international markets and currency headwinds might continue to limit revenue growth. Moreover, integration risks linked to Starwood purchase is an added concern. Even so, its investments in technology for hotel bookings are anticipated to improve guest experience.”

MAR has been the topic of several other research reports. BidaskClub upgraded Marriott International from a buy rating to a strong-buy rating in a report on Thursday, October 12th. Sanford C. Bernstein lowered Marriott International from an outperform rating to a market perform rating in a report on Thursday, November 16th. Stifel Nicolaus reiterated a hold rating and set a $132.00 target price on shares of Marriott International in a report on Tuesday, January 9th. Barclays upped their target price on Marriott International from $105.00 to $130.00 and gave the stock an equal weight rating in a report on Tuesday, November 28th. Finally, Deutsche Bank reiterated a hold rating and set a $124.00 target price on shares of Marriott International in a report on Wednesday, December 6th. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have assigned a hold rating, ten have issued a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the stock. Marriott International has a consensus rating of Buy and an average price target of $114.26.

Marriott International (MAR) traded up $2.94 during mid-day trading on Friday, hitting $144.07. The stock had a trading volume of 3,156,220 shares, compared to its average volume of 2,320,000. The company has a quick ratio of 0.52, a current ratio of 0.52 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.83. The firm has a market capitalization of $53,620.00, a PE ratio of 39.15, a P/E/G ratio of 2.29 and a beta of 1.35. Marriott International has a 52 week low of $83.81 and a 52 week high of $144.07.

Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR) last posted its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, November 7th. The company reported $1.10 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.98 by $0.12. The company had revenue of $5.66 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $5.22 billion. Marriott International had a return on equity of 31.58% and a net margin of 6.30%. Marriott International’s revenue for the quarter was up 43.7% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same period in the prior year, the firm earned $0.91 earnings per share. sell-side analysts anticipate that Marriott International will post 4.24 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, December 29th. Shareholders of record on Wednesday, November 22nd were paid a $0.33 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Tuesday, November 21st. This represents a $1.32 annualized dividend and a yield of 0.92%. Marriott International’s dividend payout ratio is 35.87%.

Marriott International announced that its board has initiated a stock repurchase plan on Thursday, November 9th that allows the company to repurchase 30,000,000 outstanding shares. This repurchase authorization allows the company to reacquire shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock repurchase plans are typically a sign that the company’s leadership believes its shares are undervalued.

In other Marriott International news, insider Deborah Marriott Harrison sold 130,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, November 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $119.17, for a total value of $15,492,100.00. Following the sale, the insider now owns 114,155 shares in the company, valued at $13,603,851.35. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through this link. Also, EVP Edward A. Ryan sold 6,550 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, November 13th. The shares were sold at an average price of $120.40, for a total value of $788,620.00. Following the completion of the sale, the executive vice president now owns 67,856 shares in the company, valued at approximately $8,169,862.40. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold 221,825 shares of company stock worth $27,378,820 in the last 90 days. Corporate insiders own 11.32% of the company’s stock.

Several institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of the company. Wealth Enhancement Advisory Services LLC acquired a new position in shares of Marriott International in the fourth quarter valued at approximately $1,306,000. State of Alaska Department of Revenue grew its position in shares of Marriott International by 277.2% in the fourth quarter. State of Alaska Department of Revenue now owns 38,524 shares of the company’s stock valued at $5,228,000 after purchasing an additional 28,311 shares during the last quarter. Fox Run Management L.L.C. acquired a new position in shares of Marriott International in the fourth quarter valued at approximately $360,000. CAPROCK Group Inc. acquired a new position in shares of Marriott International in the fourth quarter valued at approximately $246,000. Finally, Creative Planning grew its position in shares of Marriott International by 6.5% in the fourth quarter. Creative Planning now owns 29,816 shares of the company’s stock valued at $4,047,000 after purchasing an additional 1,823 shares during the last quarter. 66.67% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors.

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About Marriott International

Marriott International, Inc (Marriott International) is a lodging company. Marriott International operates in three business segments: North American Full-Service, North American Limited-Service and International. Its North American Full-Service segment includes its Luxury and Premium brands (JW Marriott, Marriott Hotels, Sheraton, Westin, Renaissance Hotels, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection Hotels, Delta Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, and Tribute Portfolio) located in the United States and Canada.

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