Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) Downgraded by Zacks Investment Research to “Hold”

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report issued to clients and investors on Wednesday, Zacks.com reports. They presently have a $125.00 target price on the restaurant operator’s stock. Zacks Investment Research‘s target price would suggest a potential upside of 6.56% from the company’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “Shares of Darden have outperformed the industry in a year. Darden’s earnings met/surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 18 straight quarters. Estimates for current quarter and year have increased over the past 60 days. Backed by its various sales initiatives and technology-driven moves, the top line is likely to improve in the months ahead. The company’s efforts to check costs are commendable. In fiscal 2018, management realized roughly $10 million of cost synergies and expects to realize the same in the range of $22-$27 million by the end of fiscal 2019. Further, the Cheddar's buyout has added value to Darden's portfolio of differentiated brands. Current-year earnings estimates have also moved north over the past month. However, fierce competition and softer-than-expected consumer demand might keep comps under pressure. Also, rising labor costs and a non-franchised business model may dampen profits.”

DRI has been the subject of a number of other reports. UBS Group assumed coverage on Darden Restaurants in a research report on Friday, April 26th. They issued a “buy” rating and a $133.00 target price for the company. Wedbush boosted their target price on Darden Restaurants from $120.00 to $130.00 and gave the company a “neutral” rating in a research report on Thursday, May 23rd. Loop Capital boosted their target price on Darden Restaurants to $140.00 and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Friday, March 22nd. BTIG Research boosted their target price on Darden Restaurants to $134.00 and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Friday, March 22nd. Finally, Wells Fargo & Co decreased their target price on Darden Restaurants from $120.00 to $117.00 and set a “market perform” rating for the company in a research report on Tuesday. One research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, seven have issued a hold rating and nineteen have assigned a buy rating to the company. The stock presently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average price target of $129.96.

Darden Restaurants stock traded down $1.72 during midday trading on Wednesday, reaching $117.31. The stock had a trading volume of 34,032 shares, compared to its average volume of 1,276,926. Darden Restaurants has a 12 month low of $91.34 and a 12 month high of $125.33. The firm has a market capitalization of $14.92 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 24.42, a PEG ratio of 1.84 and a beta of 0.30. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.40, a current ratio of 0.48 and a quick ratio of 0.33.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) last issued its earnings results on Thursday, March 21st. The restaurant operator reported $1.80 EPS for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.75 by $0.05. Darden Restaurants had a return on equity of 30.28% and a net margin of 8.08%. The business had revenue of $2.25 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $2.24 billion. During the same period in the previous year, the company posted $1.71 EPS. The firm’s revenue was up 5.5% compared to the same quarter last year. On average, sell-side analysts expect that Darden Restaurants will post 5.78 EPS for the current year.

In other news, insider Eugene I. Lee, Jr. sold 73,152 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, March 25th. The stock was sold at an average price of $118.61, for a total value of $8,676,558.72. Following the transaction, the insider now owns 190,025 shares in the company, valued at approximately $22,538,865.25. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through this link. Also, SVP John W. Madonna sold 330 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, March 25th. The stock was sold at an average price of $118.76, for a total value of $39,190.80. Following the completion of the transaction, the senior vice president now owns 1,680 shares in the company, valued at approximately $199,516.80. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 0.65% of the stock is owned by insiders.

Several large investors have recently bought and sold shares of DRI. Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 14,173.2% in the 4th quarter. Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund now owns 4,131,508 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $41,000 after purchasing an additional 4,102,562 shares during the period. Norges Bank bought a new stake in shares of Darden Restaurants in the 4th quarter worth approximately $133,817,000. FMR LLC raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 211.9% in the 4th quarter. FMR LLC now owns 1,547,369 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $154,520,000 after purchasing an additional 1,051,240 shares during the period. American Century Companies Inc. raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 274.3% in the 4th quarter. American Century Companies Inc. now owns 1,349,208 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $134,732,000 after purchasing an additional 988,753 shares during the period. Finally, Vanguard Group Inc raised its holdings in shares of Darden Restaurants by 5.2% in the 3rd quarter. Vanguard Group Inc now owns 13,687,194 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $1,521,879,000 after purchasing an additional 673,563 shares during the period. 88.86% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors.

Darden Restaurants Company Profile

Darden Restaurants, Inc, through its subsidiaries, owns and operates full-service restaurants in the United States and Canada. As of May 27, 2018, it owned and operated approximately 1,746 restaurants under the Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and Eddie V's brands.

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