Essent Group (NYSE:ESNT) Downgraded by Zacks Investment Research to “Hold”

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Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of Essent Group (NYSE:ESNT) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research report sent to investors on Thursday, Zacks.com reports.

According to Zacks, “Essent Group Ltd., through its subsidiaries, operates as a private mortgage insurance company. It serves originators of residential mortgage loans, such as regulated depository institutions, mortgage banks, credit unions, and other lenders. Essent Group Ltd. is based in Hamilton, Bermuda. “

Other analysts have also recently issued research reports about the company. Deutsche Bank raised their price target on Essent Group from $65.00 to $67.00 and gave the company a buy rating in a report on Wednesday, February 19th. Royal Bank of Canada reaffirmed a buy rating on shares of Essent Group in a report on Wednesday, February 19th. MKM Partners lowered their price target on Essent Group to and set a neutral rating on the stock in a report on Tuesday, February 18th. ValuEngine raised Essent Group from a strong sell rating to a sell rating in a report on Tuesday, February 18th. Finally, JPMorgan Chase & Co. lowered their price target on Essent Group from $57.50 to $56.00 and set an overweight rating on the stock in a report on Tuesday, February 18th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, two have issued a hold rating and four have given a buy rating to the company. The company presently has an average rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $57.00.

NYSE ESNT traded down $0.46 during trading hours on Thursday, hitting $47.63. The company had a trading volume of 3,048 shares, compared to its average volume of 644,388. The firm has a 50 day simple moving average of $50.85 and a 200 day simple moving average of $50.66. Essent Group has a 52 week low of $42.08 and a 52 week high of $55.84. The firm has a market capitalization of $4.73 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 8.41, a PEG ratio of 0.80 and a beta of 1.18.

Essent Group (NYSE:ESNT) last released its quarterly earnings results on Friday, February 14th. The financial services provider reported $1.49 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $1.46 by $0.03. Essent Group had a return on equity of 20.08% and a net margin of 64.05%. The firm had revenue of $228.80 million for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $225.94 million. During the same quarter last year, the firm posted $1.31 EPS. The company’s revenue was up 18.5% compared to the same quarter last year. Sell-side analysts forecast that Essent Group will post 6 earnings per share for the current year.

The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, March 20th. Shareholders of record on Tuesday, March 10th will be issued a $0.16 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Monday, March 9th. This represents a $0.64 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 1.34%. This is a boost from Essent Group’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.15. Essent Group’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 10.60%.

In related news, SVP Vijay Bhasin sold 40,887 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, November 27th. The stock was sold at an average price of $55.05, for a total transaction of $2,250,829.35. Following the transaction, the senior vice president now directly owns 164,396 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $9,049,999.80. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is accessible through this link. Also, CFO Lawrence E. Mcalee, Jr. sold 700 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, January 17th. The shares were sold at an average price of $52.50, for a total value of $36,750.00. Following the transaction, the chief financial officer now directly owns 199,041 shares in the company, valued at $10,449,652.50. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last ninety days, insiders sold 51,687 shares of company stock worth $2,815,814. Insiders own 2.90% of the company’s stock.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in ESNT. CWM LLC boosted its stake in Essent Group by 134.9% during the fourth quarter. CWM LLC now owns 740 shares of the financial services provider’s stock valued at $38,000 after buying an additional 425 shares during the last quarter. Financial Advantage Inc. purchased a new stake in shares of Essent Group in the third quarter worth approximately $40,000. DekaBank Deutsche Girozentrale purchased a new position in Essent Group during the 4th quarter worth $138,000. Advisor Group Inc. increased its holdings in Essent Group by 26.4% during the 4th quarter. Advisor Group Inc. now owns 2,759 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $143,000 after purchasing an additional 577 shares during the period. Finally, Toronto Dominion Bank increased its holdings in Essent Group by 108.4% during the 4th quarter. Toronto Dominion Bank now owns 3,361 shares of the financial services provider’s stock worth $175,000 after purchasing an additional 1,748 shares during the period. 82.51% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors.

About Essent Group

Essent Group Ltd., through its subsidiaries, provides private mortgage insurance and reinsurance for mortgages secured by residential properties located in the United States. The company also provides information technology maintenance and development services; customer support-related services; and contract underwriting services.

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