Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) Director Leslie A. Brun sold 3,052 shares of Merck & Co., Inc. stock in a transaction on Friday, February 8th. The stock was sold at an average price of $77.22, for a total transaction of $235,675.44. Following the completion of the sale, the director now owns 5,000 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $386,100. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at this hyperlink.

MRK stock traded down $0.81 during trading on Monday, hitting $76.71. 12,962,200 shares of the company’s stock traded hands, compared to its average volume of 13,190,743. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.61, a current ratio of 1.44 and a quick ratio of 1.15. Merck & Co., Inc. has a 52 week low of $52.83 and a 52 week high of $80.19. The firm has a market cap of $209.01 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 17.68, a PEG ratio of 2.05 and a beta of 0.62.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) last released its earnings results on Friday, February 1st. The company reported $1.04 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $1.03 by $0.01. Merck & Co., Inc. had a net margin of 14.71% and a return on equity of 35.10%. The firm had revenue of $11 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $10.93 billion. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm earned $0.98 earnings per share. The firm’s revenue for the quarter was up 5.4% compared to the same quarter last year. As a group, analysts expect that Merck & Co., Inc. will post 4.65 EPS for the current fiscal year.

Merck & Co., Inc. declared that its Board of Directors has initiated a stock repurchase plan on Thursday, October 25th that permits the company to buyback $10.00 billion in shares. This buyback authorization permits the company to buy up to 5.1% of its shares through open market purchases. Shares buyback plans are usually an indication that the company’s board believes its stock is undervalued.

The company also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, April 5th. Stockholders of record on Friday, March 15th will be issued a dividend of $0.55 per share. This represents a $2.20 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.87%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Thursday, March 14th. Merck & Co., Inc.’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is 50.69%.

Several analysts have weighed in on the stock. Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from a “strong-buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Thursday, January 24th. BMO Capital Markets lowered shares of Merck & Co., Inc. from an “outperform” rating to a “market perform” rating and set a $80.00 target price for the company. in a research note on Wednesday, January 23rd. Citigroup set a $65.00 target price on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a “hold” rating in a research note on Thursday, December 20th. Morgan Stanley set a $81.00 target price on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research note on Thursday, December 20th. Finally, Credit Suisse Group set a $86.00 target price on shares of Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research note on Thursday, December 13th. Six equities research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and eleven have given a buy rating to the stock. The company presently has an average rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $73.15.

Several institutional investors and hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in MRK. Third Point LLC acquired a new stake in Merck & Co., Inc. during the 3rd quarter worth about $319,230,000. Chemung Canal Trust Co. increased its holdings in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 82.2% in the third quarter. Chemung Canal Trust Co. now owns 107,279 shares of the company’s stock worth $7,610,000 after buying an additional 48,395 shares during the period. Port Capital LLC purchased a new position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in the third quarter worth about $1,028,000. PointState Capital LP purchased a new position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in the third quarter worth about $8,513,000. Finally, Worldquant Millennium Quantitative Strategies LLC purchased a new position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in the second quarter worth about $23,693,000. 74.29% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

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About Merck & Co., Inc.

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

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