First Merchants (FRME) Upgraded to “Buy” by ValuEngine

ValuEngine upgraded shares of First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research note released on Sunday morning.

A number of other research firms have also recently issued reports on FRME. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods reaffirmed a buy rating and issued a $47.00 price target on shares of First Merchants in a report on Sunday, October 29th. Piper Jaffray Companies reaffirmed a neutral rating and issued a $46.00 price target on shares of First Merchants in a report on Friday, October 6th. Finally, Zacks Investment Research cut shares of First Merchants from a buy rating to a hold rating in a report on Monday, October 2nd. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, two have given a hold rating and two have issued a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock has an average rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $47.33.

First Merchants (FRME) opened at $42.06 on Friday. The stock has a market cap of $2,066.95, a price-to-earnings ratio of 19.29, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.66 and a beta of 0.91. First Merchants has a fifty-two week low of $35.26 and a fifty-two week high of $45.42. The company has a quick ratio of 0.93, a current ratio of 0.93 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.43.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last posted its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, October 26th. The bank reported $0.50 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, missing the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.55 by ($0.05). The company had revenue of $93.09 million during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $97.45 million. First Merchants had a return on equity of 9.56% and a net margin of 26.28%. sell-side analysts expect that First Merchants will post 2.26 EPS for the current year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, December 15th. Investors of record on Friday, December 1st were issued a dividend of $0.18 per share. The ex-dividend date was Thursday, November 30th. This represents a $0.72 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 1.71%. First Merchants’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 33.03%.

In related news, President Michael C. Rechin sold 5,332 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Tuesday, November 21st. The shares were sold at an average price of $41.41, for a total transaction of $220,798.12. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, insider Mark K. Hardwick sold 4,301 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Tuesday, November 7th. The stock was sold at an average price of $42.61, for a total transaction of $183,265.61. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last three months, insiders have purchased 5,200 shares of company stock valued at $223,978. 1.41% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Several institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of the stock. BlackRock Inc. raised its holdings in shares of First Merchants by 7.8% during the second quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 3,666,493 shares of the bank’s stock worth $147,175,000 after purchasing an additional 263,813 shares during the last quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. grew its position in First Merchants by 6.7% during the second quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 1,906,637 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $76,533,000 after buying an additional 119,583 shares during the period. The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company grew its position in First Merchants by 1.7% during the second quarter. The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company now owns 1,021,772 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $41,014,000 after buying an additional 17,224 shares during the period. Northern Trust Corp grew its position in First Merchants by 1.6% during the second quarter. Northern Trust Corp now owns 997,546 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $40,042,000 after buying an additional 15,374 shares during the period. Finally, State Street Corp grew its position in First Merchants by 12.3% during the second quarter. State Street Corp now owns 886,327 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $35,577,000 after buying an additional 97,164 shares during the period. 69.15% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

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About First Merchants

First Merchants Corporation is a financial holding company. The Company has a bank charter, First Merchants Bank (the Bank), which is opened for business in Muncie, Indiana. It operates through community banking business segment. The Bank also operates Lafayette Bank and Trust, and First Merchants Private Wealth Advisors (each as a division of First Merchants Bank).

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