W. R. Berkley (WRB) Downgraded by Zacks Investment Research

Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a research report sent to investors on Thursday, Zacks.com reports.

According to Zacks, “Shares of W.R. Berkley have underperformed the industry in a year’s time. Exposure to a highly competitive reinsurance market and pressure on the rate environment concerns. Rising debt have been inducing higher interest expenses. Exposure to catastrophe loss inducing volatility in underwriting profitability remains a headwind. Nonetheless, W.R. Berkley has been investing in numerous startups since 2006 and establishing new units, enabling it to take advantage of an improved market scenario. Launch of Berkley Healthcare seems a prudent step by the insurer to tap the growing healthcare market. Establishing operating units in North and Southeast Asia are also in line with the strategy.  It also boasts a prudent capital management policy. Its international business has potential for long-term earnings growth.”

Other equities analysts also recently issued reports about the stock. ValuEngine downgraded shares of W. R. Berkley from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research note on Thursday. Credit Suisse Group raised W. R. Berkley from a neutral rating to an outperform rating and raised their target price for the stock from $51.67 to $58.67 in a research note on Wednesday, February 27th. Finally, Morgan Stanley cut their target price on W. R. Berkley from $49.33 to $48.67 and set an equal weight rating on the stock in a research note on Thursday, January 3rd. Three equities research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, three have given a hold rating and one has assigned a buy rating to the stock. W. R. Berkley presently has a consensus rating of Hold and an average price target of $52.93.

Shares of WRB stock opened at $57.18 on Thursday. The stock has a market cap of $10.41 billion, a P/E ratio of 21.42, a P/E/G ratio of 2.50 and a beta of 0.75. W. R. Berkley has a 1-year low of $45.91 and a 1-year high of $57.24. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.51, a current ratio of 0.35 and a quick ratio of 0.35.

W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) last posted its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday, January 29th. The insurance provider reported $0.61 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.51 by $0.10. The business had revenue of $1.81 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $1.86 billion. W. R. Berkley had a return on equity of 9.39% and a net margin of 8.33%. As a group, equities research analysts expect that W. R. Berkley will post 2.53 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, April 2nd. Stockholders of record on Thursday, March 14th were paid a dividend of $0.10 per share. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Wednesday, March 13th. This represents a $0.40 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 0.70%. W. R. Berkley’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 14.98%.

Hedge funds have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund raised its holdings in W. R. Berkley by 7,291.0% in the 4th quarter. Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund now owns 2,803,776 shares of the insurance provider’s stock worth $38,000 after purchasing an additional 2,765,841 shares in the last quarter. We Are One Seven LLC bought a new stake in shares of W. R. Berkley during the 4th quarter valued at about $52,000. Clarfeld Financial Advisors LLC purchased a new position in shares of W. R. Berkley during the fourth quarter valued at about $64,000. Rehmann Capital Advisory Group increased its position in shares of W. R. Berkley by 64.6% during the fourth quarter. Rehmann Capital Advisory Group now owns 950 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $70,000 after buying an additional 373 shares during the period. Finally, Quantamental Technologies LLC purchased a new position in shares of W. R. Berkley during the fourth quarter valued at about $83,000. 72.63% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

About W. R. Berkley

W. R. Berkley Corporation, an insurance holding company, operates as a commercial lines writer in the United States and internationally. It operates through two segments, Insurance and Reinsurance. The Insurance segment underwrites commercial insurance business, including premises operations, commercial automobile, property, products liability, and professional liability lines.

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