Zacks Investment Research Lowers Aflac Incorporated (AFL) to Hold

Aflac Incorporated (NYSE:AFL) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a note issued to investors on Friday, September 8th.

According to Zacks, “Aflac shares have outperformed its industry year to date. Efforts to increase agent productivity, emphasis on sale of third-sector products, pull back on sale of first-sector products, and the introduction of new products like cancer insurance are likely to drive long-term growth. Its strong capital position enables it to buy back shares and increase dividend payouts. However, the company remains exposed to a challenging operating environment, primarily in Japan. Charges related to Japan’s branch conversion and foreign exchange volatility are some headwinds faced by the company.”

A number of other equities analysts also recently issued reports on the company. Bank of America Corporation downgraded Aflac from a “neutral” rating to an “underperform” rating in a research note on Friday, September 8th. UBS AG reiterated an “overweight” rating on shares of Aflac in a research note on Thursday, August 24th. Barclays PLC lifted their price target on Aflac from $73.00 to $79.00 and gave the company an “equal weight” rating in a research note on Friday, August 11th. ValuEngine upgraded Aflac from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note on Tuesday, August 1st. Finally, BidaskClub downgraded Aflac from a “sell” rating to a “strong sell” rating in a research note on Tuesday, August 1st. Four investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, seven have assigned a hold rating and five have assigned a buy rating to the company. The stock has an average rating of “Hold” and an average price target of $77.23.

Aflac (NYSE:AFL) opened at 83.15 on Friday. Aflac has a 52-week low of $66.50 and a 52-week high of $83.39. The stock’s 50 day moving average price is $81.25 and its 200 day moving average price is $76.60. The firm has a market capitalization of $32.86 billion, a PE ratio of 12.57 and a beta of 0.97.

Aflac (NYSE:AFL) last released its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, July 27th. The financial services provider reported $1.83 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.63 by $0.20. The business had revenue of $5.43 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $5.48 billion. Aflac had a return on equity of 13.09% and a net margin of 11.98%. The company’s quarterly revenue was down .2% on a year-over-year basis. During the same quarter in the previous year, the business earned $1.65 EPS. On average, analysts predict that Aflac will post $6.69 EPS for the current fiscal year.

Aflac declared that its board has approved a stock repurchase plan on Tuesday, August 8th that permits the company to repurchase 40,000,000 outstanding shares. This repurchase authorization permits the financial services provider to buy shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock repurchase plans are typically an indication that the company’s management believes its shares are undervalued.

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In related news, insider Teresa L. White sold 11,314 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, June 27th. The stock was sold at an average price of $78.01, for a total value of $882,605.14. Following the transaction, the insider now owns 26,847 shares in the company, valued at $2,094,334.47. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Also, President Kriss Cloninger III sold 3,500 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, August 4th. The shares were sold at an average price of $81.06, for a total value of $283,710.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the president now owns 253,196 shares in the company, valued at approximately $20,524,067.76. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 3.00% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

A number of institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of AFL. BlackRock Inc. raised its holdings in Aflac by 1,750.9% during the 1st quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 23,849,668 shares of the financial services provider’s stock valued at $1,727,193,000 after acquiring an additional 22,561,116 shares during the period. AJO LP raised its holdings in Aflac by 157.8% during the 2nd quarter. AJO LP now owns 3,483,353 shares of the financial services provider’s stock valued at $270,587,000 after acquiring an additional 2,132,414 shares during the period. Balyasny Asset Management LLC raised its holdings in Aflac by 1,351.2% during the 2nd quarter. Balyasny Asset Management LLC now owns 1,311,615 shares of the financial services provider’s stock valued at $101,886,000 after acquiring an additional 1,221,231 shares during the period. Vanguard Group Inc. raised its holdings in Aflac by 3.4% during the 1st quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 31,980,927 shares of the financial services provider’s stock valued at $2,316,059,000 after acquiring an additional 1,048,415 shares during the period. Finally, Coho Partners Ltd. raised its holdings in Aflac by 85.3% during the 2nd quarter. Coho Partners Ltd. now owns 2,186,934 shares of the financial services provider’s stock valued at $169,881,000 after acquiring an additional 1,006,477 shares during the period. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 65.63% of the company’s stock.

About Aflac

Aflac Incorporated is a business holding company. The Company is involved in supplemental health and life insurance, which is marketed and administered through its subsidiary, American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (Aflac). The Company’s insurance business consists of two segments: Aflac Japan and Aflac U.S.

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Analyst Recommendations for Aflac (NYSE:AFL)

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