Sonic Automotive Inc. (NYSE:SAH) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a report released on Monday.

According to Zacks, “Sonic Automotive is poised to benefit from capital deployment strategies and different initiatives undertaken to boost its performance. The company’s earnings per share are expected to increase in 2016. However, Sonic Automotive’s extensive merchandise inventory raises concerns. Moreover, a highly competitive industry and fluctuations in foreign exchange rate remain headwinds. Sonic Automotive’s earnings estimates have been stable lately. The company has a mixed record of earnings surprises in recent quarters.”

Shares of Sonic Automotive (NYSE:SAH) traded up 0.16% during mid-day trading on Monday, reaching $18.83. The company had a trading volume of 147,997 shares. The company’s 50-day moving average price is $17.43 and its 200-day moving average price is $17.59. Sonic Automotive has a 52-week low of $15.68 and a 52-week high of $25.77. The company has a market capitalization of $855.77 million, a PE ratio of 9.58 and a beta of 1.81.

Sonic Automotive (NYSE:SAH) last issued its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, July 26th. The company reported $0.50 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, hitting the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.50. The firm earned $2.38 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $2.48 billion. Sonic Automotive had a net margin of 0.99% and a return on equity of 14.65%. Sonic Automotive’s revenue for the quarter was down 1.7% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the company posted $0.46 earnings per share. On average, analysts forecast that Sonic Automotive will post $2.10 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, October 14th. Investors of record on Thursday, September 15th will be issued a $0.05 dividend. This represents a $0.20 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 1.06%. The ex-dividend date is Tuesday, September 13th. Sonic Automotive’s dividend payout ratio is presently 10.26%.

In other Sonic Automotive news, insider O Bruton Smith acquired 50,000 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, August 24th. The stock was purchased at an average cost of $16.83 per share, for a total transaction of $841,500.00. Following the completion of the acquisition, the insider now owns 525,242 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $8,839,822.86. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at the SEC website. 29.32% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Large investors have recently modified their holdings of the company. Towle & Co. acquired a new stake in shares of Sonic Automotive during the second quarter worth about $11,617,000. Lombardia Capital Partners LLC boosted its stake in Sonic Automotive by 23.4% in the second quarter. Lombardia Capital Partners LLC now owns 1,231,582 shares of the company’s stock worth $21,072,000 after buying an additional 233,291 shares during the period. Prudential Financial Inc. boosted its stake in Sonic Automotive by 161.0% in the first quarter. Prudential Financial Inc. now owns 304,209 shares of the company’s stock worth $5,622,000 after buying an additional 187,659 shares during the period. LSV Asset Management boosted its stake in Sonic Automotive by 14.8% in the second quarter. LSV Asset Management now owns 1,384,131 shares of the company’s stock worth $23,682,000 after buying an additional 178,025 shares during the period. Finally, BlackRock Institutional Trust Company N.A. boosted its stake in Sonic Automotive by 19.7% in the first quarter. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company N.A. now owns 1,064,365 shares of the company’s stock worth $19,669,000 after buying an additional 175,536 shares during the period. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 65.88% of the company’s stock.

About Sonic Automotive

Sonic Automotive, Inc is an automotive retailer in the United States. The Company’s operating segments include Franchised Dealerships and EchoPark. The Company’s Franchised Dealerships segment consists of traditional retail automotive franchises that sell new and used vehicles, replacement parts and vehicle repair and maintenance services, and finance and insurance products.

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