Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of HCA Healthcare (NYSE:HCA) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report report published on Monday. Zacks Investment Research currently has $157.00 price target on the stock.

According to Zacks, “HCA Healthcare’s shares have outperformed its industry’s gain in a year’s time.  Its top line has been growing over the last several quarters on higher admissions as well as improved payor and service mix. A number of acquisitions helped the company gain a strong foothold in the industry, fueling its inorganic growth. The company has also raised its guidance from its previous projections. A strong balance sheet and free cash flow are a couple of other positives for the company. The company's third quarter earnings of $2.16 per share, surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 11.9%, led by higher same facility admissions. However, its high operating expenses continue to weigh on the margins. The company would continue to incur debts for future acquisitions, which is a concern.”

A number of other research firms have also recently commented on HCA. Credit Suisse Group raised their target price on shares of HCA Healthcare from $122.00 to $143.00 and gave the stock an outperform rating in a research note on Friday, July 27th. Citigroup raised their target price on shares of HCA Healthcare from $136.00 to $156.00 and gave the stock a buy rating in a research note on Thursday, October 11th. Royal Bank of Canada raised their target price on shares of HCA Healthcare to $150.00 and gave the stock an outperform rating in a research note on Monday, September 10th. Bank of America increased their price objective on shares of HCA Healthcare from $125.00 to $135.00 and gave the company an underperform rating in a report on Tuesday, September 18th. Finally, Jefferies Financial Group reaffirmed a buy rating and set a $135.00 price objective on shares of HCA Healthcare in a report on Thursday, July 26th. Two analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, five have issued a hold rating and sixteen have assigned a buy rating to the company. The stock has an average rating of Buy and an average price target of $144.45.

NYSE HCA opened at $134.81 on Monday. HCA Healthcare has a 12 month low of $75.45 and a 12 month high of $144.96. The company has a market cap of $46.49 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 15.18, a PEG ratio of 1.18 and a beta of 0.48.

HCA Healthcare (NYSE:HCA) last released its earnings results on Tuesday, October 30th. The company reported $2.16 EPS for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.93 by $0.23. HCA Healthcare had a net margin of 6.82% and a negative return on equity of 73.71%. The company had revenue of $11.45 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $11.29 billion. During the same quarter last year, the business earned $1.13 EPS. The firm’s revenue was up 7.1% compared to the same quarter last year. On average, equities analysts forecast that HCA Healthcare will post 9.35 earnings per share for the current year.

The business also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, December 28th. Shareholders of record on Monday, December 3rd will be issued a dividend of $0.35 per share. This represents a $1.40 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 1.04%. The ex-dividend date is Friday, November 30th. HCA Healthcare’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is currently 21.24%.

In related news, SVP Deborah M. Reiner sold 723 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Monday, November 5th. The shares were sold at an average price of $135.06, for a total value of $97,648.38. Following the completion of the transaction, the senior vice president now directly owns 6,184 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $835,211.04. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available at the SEC website. Also, SVP Kathryn A. Torres sold 820 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Tuesday, November 13th. The shares were sold at an average price of $142.36, for a total transaction of $116,735.20. Following the completion of the transaction, the senior vice president now directly owns 4,237 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $603,179.32. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last ninety days, insiders have sold 16,763 shares of company stock valued at $2,346,147. Insiders own 2.80% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of the stock. Bamco Inc. NY purchased a new position in shares of HCA Healthcare in the third quarter valued at $169,000. Glenmede Trust Co. NA grew its holdings in shares of HCA Healthcare by 164.9% in the third quarter. Glenmede Trust Co. NA now owns 1,274 shares of the company’s stock valued at $176,000 after purchasing an additional 793 shares in the last quarter. Signet Financial Management LLC purchased a new position in shares of HCA Healthcare in the second quarter valued at $137,000. Smithfield Trust Co. grew its holdings in shares of HCA Healthcare by 41.2% in the third quarter. Smithfield Trust Co. now owns 1,405 shares of the company’s stock valued at $196,000 after purchasing an additional 410 shares in the last quarter. Finally, First Light Asset Management LLC purchased a new position in shares of HCA Healthcare in the third quarter valued at $210,000. 71.97% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, Inc, through its subsidiaries, provides health care services. The company operates general, acute care hospitals that offer medical and surgical services, including inpatient care, intensive care, cardiac care, diagnostic, and emergency services; and outpatient services, such as outpatient surgery, laboratory, radiology, respiratory therapy, cardiology, and physical therapy services.

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