Smead Capital Management Inc. cut its position in Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) by 2.6% during the 3rd quarter, HoldingsChannel.com reports. The firm owned 1,028,385 shares of the company’s stock after selling 27,597 shares during the quarter. Merck & Co., Inc. comprises about 3.3% of Smead Capital Management Inc.’s portfolio, making the stock its 16th largest holding. Smead Capital Management Inc.’s holdings in Merck & Co., Inc. were worth $72,954,000 as of its most recent SEC filing.

A number of other institutional investors and hedge funds have also recently bought and sold shares of MRK. Rockland Trust Co. bought a new position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in the 2nd quarter valued at about $3,949,000. Sawyer & Company Inc raised its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 10.7% in the 2nd quarter. Sawyer & Company Inc now owns 22,984 shares of the company’s stock worth $1,395,000 after purchasing an additional 2,215 shares in the last quarter. Worldquant Millennium Quantitative Strategies LLC acquired a new stake in Merck & Co., Inc. in the 2nd quarter worth about $23,693,000. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC raised its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 37.0% in the 2nd quarter. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC now owns 122,748 shares of the company’s stock worth $7,451,000 after purchasing an additional 33,153 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Jennison Associates LLC raised its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. by 11.0% in the 2nd quarter. Jennison Associates LLC now owns 924,946 shares of the company’s stock worth $56,144,000 after purchasing an additional 91,879 shares in the last quarter. Institutional investors own 72.29% of the company’s stock.

Shares of Merck & Co., Inc. stock opened at $76.35 on Tuesday. The company has a market cap of $205.07 billion, a P/E ratio of 19.18, a P/E/G ratio of 2.07 and a beta of 0.73. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.61, a quick ratio of 1.15 and a current ratio of 1.44. Merck & Co., Inc. has a 1 year low of $52.83 and a 1 year high of $76.61.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, October 25th. The company reported $1.19 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $1.14 by $0.05. Merck & Co., Inc. had a net margin of 8.44% and a return on equity of 34.48%. The company had revenue of $10.79 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $10.87 billion. Equities research analysts forecast that Merck & Co., Inc. will post 4.34 EPS for the current year.

Merck & Co., Inc. declared that its board has initiated a share buyback plan on Thursday, October 25th that authorizes the company to buyback $10.00 billion in outstanding shares. This buyback authorization authorizes the company to buy up to 5.1% of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback plans are often a sign that the company’s leadership believes its shares are undervalued.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Tuesday, January 8th. Shareholders of record on Monday, December 17th will be issued a dividend of $0.55 per share. This represents a $2.20 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.88%. This is a positive change from Merck & Co., Inc.’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.48. The ex-dividend date is Friday, December 14th. Merck & Co., Inc.’s payout ratio is presently 48.24%.

In other news, EVP Julie L. Gerberding sold 36,218 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Wednesday, November 7th. The shares were sold at an average price of $75.14, for a total value of $2,721,420.52. Following the sale, the executive vice president now directly owns 82,481 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $6,197,622.34. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available at the SEC website. Also, SVP Ashley Watson sold 47,036 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Wednesday, October 31st. The shares were sold at an average price of $74.33, for a total transaction of $3,496,185.88. Following the completion of the sale, the senior vice president now directly owns 32,990 shares in the company, valued at $2,452,146.70. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold a total of 1,279,104 shares of company stock worth $92,845,846 over the last three months. Insiders own 0.32% of the company’s stock.

Several brokerages have weighed in on MRK. Citigroup lifted their price objective on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from $79.00 to $84.00 and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a research note on Wednesday, October 31st. BMO Capital Markets lifted their price objective on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from $70.00 to $82.00 and gave the stock an “outperform” rating in a research note on Monday, October 22nd. ValuEngine upgraded shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research report on Thursday, October 18th. Wolfe Research began coverage on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in a research report on Tuesday, October 23rd. They issued an “outperform” rating for the company. Finally, SunTrust Banks boosted their target price on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from $77.00 to $80.00 and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Monday, October 29th. Four analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and thirteen have issued a buy rating to the stock. The company presently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average price target of $72.53.

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Merck & Co., Inc. Company Profile

Merck & Co, Inc provides healthcare solutions worldwide. It operates in four segments: Pharmaceutical, Animal Health, Healthcare Services, and Alliances. The company offers therapeutic and preventive agents to treat cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, asthma, nasal allergy symptoms, allergic rhinitis, chronic hepatitis C virus, HIV-1 infection, fungal, intra-abdominal infections, hypertension, arthritis and pain, inflammatory, osteoporosis, and fertility diseases.

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Want to see what other hedge funds are holding MRK? Visit HoldingsChannel.com to get the latest 13F filings and insider trades for Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK).

Institutional Ownership by Quarter for Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)

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