Williams Companies (WMB) Rating Lowered to Sell at Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a report released on Saturday, January 6th.

According to Zacks, “Concerned with Williams Companies’ high debt levels and regulatory setbacks suffered by its Constitution Pipeline project, we are downgrading our investment thesis from ‘Hold’ to ‘Sell’. WMB’s high leverage of over 71% restricts the financial flexibility of the firm to tap on growth opportunities. Further, Constitution Pipeline—which has been denied water permit due to environmental reasons—is not likely to become operational till 2019, diluting the WMB’s near-term earnings outlook. As it is, weaker- than-expected earnings in the last three quarters is likely to dampen investors’ confidence. The termination of the Energy Transfer deal has also been a big blow to the firm. We also need to factor the WMB’s low ROE and extensive exposure to natural gas, which translates into uncertain near-term outlook for the company. As, such we view WMB as a risky bet for the time being.”

Several other equities research analysts have also issued reports on the stock. Credit Suisse Group started coverage on shares of Williams Companies in a research note on Thursday, January 4th. They set an outperform rating and a $36.00 price target for the company. Morgan Stanley decreased their price target on shares of Williams Companies from $34.00 to $33.00 and set an overweight rating for the company in a research note on Friday, November 17th. Royal Bank of Canada restated a buy rating and set a $36.00 price target on shares of Williams Companies in a research note on Monday, October 16th. Finally, Wolfe Research began coverage on shares of Williams Companies in a research note on Monday, September 25th. They set an outperform rating and a $34.00 price target for the company. One research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, four have given a hold rating, ten have issued a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the company. The company currently has a consensus rating of Buy and an average target price of $34.42.

Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) opened at $32.59 on Friday. Williams Companies has a 1 year low of $26.82 and a 1 year high of $33.43. The stock has a market cap of $27,456.26, a PE ratio of 57.18, a PEG ratio of 2.89 and a beta of 1.37. The company has a current ratio of 0.97, a quick ratio of 0.91 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.38.

Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Wednesday, November 1st. The pipeline company reported $0.15 earnings per share for the quarter, missing the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.19 by ($0.04). Williams Companies had a net margin of 5.90% and a return on equity of 3.23%. The business had revenue of $1.89 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.79 billion. During the same period in the previous year, the business posted $0.20 EPS. Williams Companies’s revenue was down .7% compared to the same quarter last year. research analysts forecast that Williams Companies will post 0.64 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The company also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, December 26th. Shareholders of record on Friday, December 8th were issued a $0.30 dividend. This represents a $1.20 annualized dividend and a yield of 3.68%. The ex-dividend date was Thursday, December 7th. Williams Companies’s payout ratio is 210.53%.

In other news, insider James E. Scheel sold 26,915 shares of Williams Companies stock in a transaction on Thursday, January 11th. The shares were sold at an average price of $33.00, for a total transaction of $888,195.00. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this link. Also, VP Ted T. Timmermans sold 1,500 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction on Monday, November 6th. The stock was sold at an average price of $28.75, for a total transaction of $43,125.00. Following the completion of the sale, the vice president now directly owns 9,594 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $275,827.50. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders own 0.50% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the business. Fuller & Thaler Asset Management Inc. purchased a new position in shares of Williams Companies during the third quarter valued at about $105,000. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC purchased a new position in shares of Williams Companies during the third quarter valued at about $172,000. Sun Life Financial INC increased its position in shares of Williams Companies by 46,384.6% during the second quarter. Sun Life Financial INC now owns 6,043 shares of the pipeline company’s stock valued at $183,000 after buying an additional 6,030 shares during the period. Bronfman E.L. Rothschild L.P. increased its position in shares of Williams Companies by 44.4% during the third quarter. Bronfman E.L. Rothschild L.P. now owns 6,550 shares of the pipeline company’s stock valued at $197,000 after buying an additional 2,013 shares during the period. Finally, Campbell & CO Investment Adviser LLC purchased a new position in shares of Williams Companies during the third quarter valued at about $202,000. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 84.62% of the company’s stock.

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Williams Companies Company Profile

The Williams Companies, Inc is an energy infrastructure company. The Company is focused on connecting North America’s hydrocarbon resource plays to markets for natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGL), and olefins. As of December 31, 2016, its interstate gas pipelines, midstream and olefins production interests were held through its investment in Williams Partners L.P.

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