Ecolab (ECL) Upgraded to Buy at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report sent to investors on Wednesday. Zacks Investment Research currently has $164.00 target price on the basic materials company’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Ecolab’s stock has outperformed its industry in a year's time. The company has been gaining prominence in MedTech of late, thanks to solid growth in  Global-Industrial segmental in Europe, North America and Latin America. Strength in the Global Institutional segment led by growth in the Specialty and Healthcare business lines is a positive. A robust product portfolio and expanding customer base is likely to drive organic sales over the long haul. On the flipside Ecolab is in the process of adopting enterprise resource planning (ERP) and human resources software systems.  The changes will incur one-time implementation costs that will mar 2018 earnings in the first half. Despite strength in Pest Elimination business, the Other segment declined year over year on reported basis. We believe that volatility in foreign currency exchange rates will remain a significant headwind for the company. Ecolab faces pricing pressure in the Energy segment.”

A number of other equities research analysts also recently weighed in on the stock. BMO Capital Markets assumed coverage on shares of Ecolab in a report on Tuesday, March 27th. They issued an outperform rating and a $151.00 price target for the company. Royal Bank of Canada reaffirmed a buy rating on shares of Ecolab in a research report on Friday, January 19th. Citigroup upped their target price on Ecolab from $140.00 to $144.00 and gave the stock a neutral rating in a research report on Thursday, February 22nd. Argus reaffirmed a buy rating and set a $150.00 target price on shares of Ecolab in a research report on Thursday, February 22nd. Finally, Stifel Nicolaus upped their target price on Ecolab from $140.00 to $153.00 and gave the stock a hold rating in a research report on Wednesday, January 24th. One research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have assigned a hold rating and eleven have assigned a buy rating to the company. The stock presently has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $143.56.

Shares of Ecolab stock traded up $0.60 during trading on Wednesday, hitting $145.77. 420,492 shares of the company’s stock were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 1,417,655. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.88, a current ratio of 1.34 and a quick ratio of 0.92. Ecolab has a 52-week low of $125.04 and a 52-week high of $150.46. The stock has a market cap of $42,245.54, a PE ratio of 31.04, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.18 and a beta of 1.00.

Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) last released its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, February 20th. The basic materials company reported $1.39 earnings per share for the quarter, missing analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.40 by ($0.01). The firm had revenue of $3.65 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $3.60 billion. Ecolab had a net margin of 10.90% and a return on equity of 19.10%. The firm’s quarterly revenue was up 8.9% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the previous year, the firm posted $1.25 EPS. equities analysts expect that Ecolab will post 5.35 EPS for the current year.

The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Monday, April 16th. Stockholders of record on Tuesday, March 20th were given a dividend of $0.41 per share. This represents a $1.64 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 1.13%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Monday, March 19th. Ecolab’s dividend payout ratio is currently 34.97%.

In other Ecolab news, major shareholder William H. Gates III purchased 113,768 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, March 14th. The shares were bought at an average price of $136.89 per share, with a total value of $15,573,701.52. The purchase was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through the SEC website. Also, major shareholder William H. Gates III purchased 442,519 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, March 9th. The shares were acquired at an average cost of $134.60 per share, for a total transaction of $59,563,057.40. The disclosure for this purchase can be found here. In the last ninety days, insiders have bought 1,848,529 shares of company stock worth $248,579,565. 1.50% of the stock is currently owned by insiders.

A number of institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. BlackRock Inc. increased its position in Ecolab by 1.5% in the fourth quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 15,713,077 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $2,108,380,000 after buying an additional 226,031 shares during the last quarter. Pensionfund DSM Netherlands bought a new stake in Ecolab during the 4th quarter valued at approximately $3,489,000. Ashburton Jersey Ltd boosted its position in Ecolab by 302.9% during the 4th quarter. Ashburton Jersey Ltd now owns 1,370 shares of the basic materials company’s stock valued at $184,000 after acquiring an additional 1,030 shares in the last quarter. Barings LLC bought a new stake in Ecolab during the 4th quarter valued at approximately $2,075,000. Finally, Jaffetilchin Investment Partners LLC bought a new stake in Ecolab during the 4th quarter valued at approximately $312,000. 78.38% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

Ecolab Company Profile

Ecolab Inc provides water, hygiene and energy technologies and services. The Company’s cleaning and sanitizing programs and products, pest elimination services and equipment maintenance and repair services support customers in the foodservice, food and beverage processing, hospitality, healthcare, government and education, retail, textile care and commercial facilities management sectors in over 170 countries.

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