Zacks Investment Research Lowers Avista (NYSE:AVA) to Hold

Avista (NYSE:AVA) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a note issued to investors on Thursday, Zacks.com reports.

According to Zacks, “Avista Corporation is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities is its operating division that provides electric service customers and natural gas customers. Its service territory covers in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon. Alaska Energy and Resources Company is an Avista subsidiary that provides retail electric service in the city and borough of Juneau, Alaska, through its subsidiary Alaska Electric Light and Power Company. “

Other equities research analysts have also recently issued reports about the stock. Bank of America cut shares of Avista from a “neutral” rating to an “underperform” rating and set a $37.00 price objective for the company. in a research report on Friday, January 8th. Sidoti reaffirmed a “neutral” rating and issued a $48.00 price target on shares of Avista in a research note on Thursday, April 1st. Finally, TheStreet raised Avista from a “c+” rating to a “b-” rating in a research report on Thursday, March 4th.

AVA traded down $0.15 on Thursday, reaching $47.58. 416,317 shares of the company’s stock were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 451,656. The stock has a market cap of $3.30 billion, a PE ratio of 26.29, a P/E/G ratio of 3.68 and a beta of 0.54. Avista has a twelve month low of $32.26 and a twelve month high of $49.14. The stock’s fifty day moving average price is $43.74 and its 200-day moving average price is $38.89. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.04, a current ratio of 0.63 and a quick ratio of 0.49.

Avista (NYSE:AVA) last released its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, February 23rd. The utilities provider reported $0.85 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.79 by $0.06. Avista had a return on equity of 6.19% and a net margin of 9.31%. The company had revenue of $380.42 million for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $376.60 million. As a group, research analysts predict that Avista will post 1.84 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

In other Avista news, VP Bryan Alden Cox sold 2,056 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, February 26th. The shares were sold at an average price of $40.21, for a total value of $82,671.76. Following the transaction, the vice president now directly owns 2,454 shares in the company, valued at $98,675.34. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, Chairman Scott L. Morris sold 9,410 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, February 26th. The stock was sold at an average price of $40.24, for a total value of $378,658.40. Following the transaction, the chairman now directly owns 176,841 shares in the company, valued at approximately $7,116,081.84. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold a total of 34,988 shares of company stock valued at $1,526,389 in the last quarter. Company insiders own 0.98% of the company’s stock.

A number of hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the stock. Norges Bank purchased a new position in Avista during the 4th quarter worth $19,372,000. BlackRock Inc. lifted its holdings in Avista by 2.7% in the fourth quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 12,290,393 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $493,337,000 after acquiring an additional 327,326 shares during the period. Bank of New York Mellon Corp boosted its position in shares of Avista by 19.6% during the 4th quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp now owns 1,750,809 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $70,278,000 after purchasing an additional 287,345 shares in the last quarter. Public Sector Pension Investment Board grew its stake in shares of Avista by 5.5% during the 4th quarter. Public Sector Pension Investment Board now owns 5,126,530 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $205,779,000 after purchasing an additional 266,611 shares during the period. Finally, Cubist Systematic Strategies LLC lifted its stake in shares of Avista by 285.6% in the third quarter. Cubist Systematic Strategies LLC now owns 158,684 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $5,414,000 after purchasing an additional 117,532 shares during the period. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 81.92% of the company’s stock.

About Avista

Avista Corporation operates as an electric and natural gas utility company. It operates in two segments, Avista Utilities and AEL&P. The Avista Utilities segment provides electric distribution and transmission, and natural gas distribution services in parts of eastern Washington and northern Idaho; and natural gas distribution services in parts of northeastern and southwestern Oregon, as well as generates electricity in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana.

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