First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) Downgraded to Sell at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a research note published on Tuesday, Zacks.com reports.

According to Zacks, “FIRST MERCHANTS CORP. is a bank holding company engaged in conducting commercial banking business through the offices of its banking subsidiaries. “

Several other research analysts have also commented on the company. Stephens upgraded First Merchants from an equal weight rating to an overweight rating and set a $44.00 price target for the company in a research report on Tuesday, July 9th. ValuEngine upgraded First Merchants from a sell rating to a hold rating in a research report on Wednesday, September 11th. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, three have assigned a hold rating and four have assigned a buy rating to the company. The stock currently has a consensus rating of Hold and an average target price of $43.33.

Shares of First Merchants stock opened at $36.99 on Tuesday. The firm has a market capitalization of $1.84 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 11.49 and a beta of 1.07. First Merchants has a fifty-two week low of $32.49 and a fifty-two week high of $45.79. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.40, a quick ratio of 0.91 and a current ratio of 0.91. The stock has a 50 day moving average of $36.96 and a 200 day moving average of $36.97.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last issued its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, July 25th. The bank reported $0.83 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.80 by $0.03. The company had revenue of $106.89 million during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $109.10 million. First Merchants had a return on equity of 11.36% and a net margin of 31.66%. Analysts forecast that First Merchants will post 3.22 EPS for the current year.

The company also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, September 20th. Stockholders of record on Friday, September 6th were given a dividend of $0.26 per share. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Thursday, September 5th. This represents a $1.04 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.81%. First Merchants’s dividend payout ratio is currently 32.30%.

In other news, Director Charles E. Schalliol sold 7,300 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Tuesday, September 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $37.98, for a total transaction of $277,254.00. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this link. Also, SVP Stephan Fluhler sold 3,873 shares of the stock in a transaction on Thursday, September 19th. The shares were sold at an average price of $38.98, for a total value of $150,969.54. Over the last 90 days, insiders have bought 134 shares of company stock valued at $4,981. Company insiders own 1.30% of the company’s stock.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in FRME. Captrust Financial Advisors raised its stake in shares of First Merchants by 148.5% in the second quarter. Captrust Financial Advisors now owns 656 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $25,000 after acquiring an additional 392 shares in the last quarter. Denali Advisors LLC acquired a new stake in shares of First Merchants in the second quarter valued at $125,000. Bank of Montreal Can raised its stake in shares of First Merchants by 106.4% in the first quarter. Bank of Montreal Can now owns 3,953 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $146,000 after acquiring an additional 2,038 shares in the last quarter. Zurcher Kantonalbank Zurich Cantonalbank raised its stake in shares of First Merchants by 38.7% in the second quarter. Zurcher Kantonalbank Zurich Cantonalbank now owns 3,991 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $151,000 after acquiring an additional 1,114 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Amundi Pioneer Asset Management Inc. acquired a new stake in shares of First Merchants in the first quarter valued at $151,000. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 73.68% of the company’s stock.

First Merchants Company Profile

First Merchants Corporation operates as the financial holding company for First Merchants Bank that provides community banking services. It accepts time, savings, and demand deposits; and provides consumer, commercial, agri-business, and real estate mortgage loans, as well as rents safe deposit facilities.

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