Zacks: Unitil Co. (NYSE:UTL) Given Average Rating of “Sell” by Analysts

Shares of Unitil Co. (NYSE:UTL) have been assigned a consensus broker rating score of 3.50 (Sell) from the two brokers that provide coverage for the stock, Zacks Investment Research reports. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating and one has assigned a hold rating to the company. Unitil’s rating score has declined by 40% from three months ago as a result of various analysts’ upgrades and downgrades.

Brokerages have set a 12 month consensus price objective of $59.00 for the company and are anticipating that the company will post $0.14 earnings per share for the current quarter, according to Zacks. Zacks has also assigned Unitil an industry rank of 145 out of 256 based on the ratings given to related companies.

UTL has been the subject of several recent analyst reports. Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Unitil from a “hold” rating to a “strong-buy” rating and set a $69.00 price objective for the company in a research report on Saturday, July 20th. Janney Montgomery Scott cut shares of Unitil from a “buy” rating to a “neutral” rating and set a $59.79 price objective for the company. in a research report on Friday, June 28th.

Unitil stock traded up $0.89 during midday trading on Friday, hitting $59.30. 2,453 shares of the stock were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 50,616. Unitil has a fifty-two week low of $46.21 and a fifty-two week high of $61.85. The firm has a market cap of $871.48 million, a PE ratio of 26.29, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 5.83 and a beta of 0.11. The stock’s 50-day moving average price is $59.28. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.00, a current ratio of 0.69 and a quick ratio of 0.64.

Unitil (NYSE:UTL) last released its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, July 25th. The utilities provider reported $0.27 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.21 by $0.06. Unitil had a net margin of 9.84% and a return on equity of 9.57%. The firm had revenue of $84.40 million during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $85.00 million. As a group, equities analysts anticipate that Unitil will post 2.32 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The company also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, August 29th. Investors of record on Thursday, August 15th will be given a dividend of $0.37 per share. This represents a $1.48 annualized dividend and a yield of 2.50%. The ex-dividend date is Wednesday, August 14th. Unitil’s payout ratio is currently 66.37%.

In other Unitil news, VP Todd R. Black sold 500 shares of Unitil stock in a transaction dated Friday, May 17th. The shares were sold at an average price of $57.05, for a total transaction of $28,525.00. Following the completion of the sale, the vice president now directly owns 26,440 shares in the company, valued at $1,508,402. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through this hyperlink. 2.39% of the stock is currently owned by company insiders.

Several institutional investors and hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in the business. Legal & General Group Plc increased its position in shares of Unitil by 9.9% during the fourth quarter. Legal & General Group Plc now owns 2,596 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $132,000 after acquiring an additional 234 shares during the last quarter. First Manhattan Co. grew its holdings in shares of Unitil by 0.3% in the first quarter. First Manhattan Co. now owns 84,539 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $4,579,000 after purchasing an additional 250 shares in the last quarter. Quantamental Technologies LLC grew its holdings in shares of Unitil by 75.0% in the second quarter. Quantamental Technologies LLC now owns 700 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $42,000 after purchasing an additional 300 shares in the last quarter. Boston Partners grew its holdings in shares of Unitil by 2.4% in the first quarter. Boston Partners now owns 21,000 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $1,138,000 after purchasing an additional 500 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Swiss National Bank grew its holdings in shares of Unitil by 2.2% in the second quarter. Swiss National Bank now owns 27,700 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $1,659,000 after purchasing an additional 600 shares in the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 67.05% of the company’s stock.

About Unitil

Unitil Corporation, a public utility holding company, engages in the distribution of electricity and natural gas in the United States. It operates through three segments: Utility Gas Operations, Utility Electric Operations, and Non-Regulated. The company distributes electricity in the southeastern seacoast and state capital regions of New Hampshire, and the greater Fitchburg area of north central Massachusetts; and distributes natural gas in southeastern New Hampshire, portions of southern Maine to the Lewiston-Auburn area, and in the greater Fitchburg area of north central Massachusetts.

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