First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note issued on Wednesday. The brokerage presently has a $24.00 price target on the stock. Zacks Investment Research’s target price indicates a potential upside of 11.37% from the stock’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “First Financial Bancorp., is a financial holding company that engages in the business of commercial banking, and other permissible activities that are financial in nature, through seventeen wholly owned subsidiary institutions. Bancorp provides management and similar services for its subsidiary financial institutions. Bancorp must depend largely upon its seventeen subsidiaries for funds with which to pay the expenses of its operation and, to the extent applicable, any dividends on its outstanding shares of stock. “

Other equities research analysts have also issued research reports about the stock. Jefferies Group restated a “hold” rating and issued a $21.00 price target on shares of First Financial Bancorp in a research note on Thursday, July 7th. Raymond James Financial Inc. lowered shares of First Financial Bancorp from an “outperform” rating to a “market perform” rating in a research note on Thursday, October 6th. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods raised their price objective on shares of First Financial Bancorp from $19.00 to $21.00 and gave the company a “market perform” rating in a research note on Monday, July 25th. Hilliard Lyons lowered shares of First Financial Bancorp from a “buy” rating to a “neutral” rating in a research note on Monday, July 25th. Finally, Piper Jaffray Cos. started coverage on shares of First Financial Bancorp in a research note on Thursday, October 6th. They set a “neutral” rating and a $23.00 price objective on the stock. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, eight have issued a hold rating and one has issued a buy rating to the company’s stock. The company presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $20.81.

Analyst Recommendations for First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC)

First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) traded up 0.47% during midday trading on Wednesday, reaching $21.55. The company had a trading volume of 231,826 shares. The company has a market capitalization of $1.34 billion, a P/E ratio of 16.58 and a beta of 1.19. First Financial Bancorp has a 52-week low of $13.76 and a 52-week high of $22.53. The company’s 50 day moving average is $21.77 and its 200-day moving average is $20.22.

First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, July 21st. The company reported $0.36 EPS for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $0.34 by $0.02. First Financial Bancorp had a net margin of 22.23% and a return on equity of 9.82%. During the same period last year, the company earned $0.31 EPS. Equities analysts expect that First Financial Bancorp will post $1.41 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Monday, October 3rd. Investors of record on Friday, September 2nd were issued a dividend of $0.16 per share. This represents a $0.64 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.97%. The ex-dividend date was Wednesday, August 31st. First Financial Bancorp’s payout ratio is 49.23%.

In related news, EVP Holly M. Foster sold 2,021 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, August 5th. The shares were sold at an average price of $21.84, for a total value of $44,138.64. Following the completion of the transaction, the executive vice president now owns 4,979 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $108,741.36. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at the SEC website. Also, COO Anthony M. Stollings sold 13,081 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, August 1st. The stock was sold at an average price of $21.11, for a total transaction of $276,139.91. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Corporate insiders own 2.19% of the company’s stock.

Institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of the company. IFP Advisors Inc raised its position in First Financial Bancorp by 0.9% in the first quarter. IFP Advisors Inc now owns 5,529 shares of the company’s stock worth $101,000 after buying an additional 49 shares in the last quarter. PineBridge Investments L.P. raised its position in First Financial Bancorp by 4.2% in the second quarter. PineBridge Investments L.P. now owns 7,845 shares of the company’s stock worth $153,000 after buying an additional 314 shares in the last quarter. Teacher Retirement System of Texas raised its position in First Financial Bancorp by 11.1% in the second quarter. Teacher Retirement System of Texas now owns 8,615 shares of the company’s stock worth $168,000 after buying an additional 864 shares in the last quarter. Societe Generale purchased a new position in First Financial Bancorp during the second quarter worth approximately $172,000. Finally, SG Americas Securities LLC raised its position in First Financial Bancorp by 54.1% in the second quarter. SG Americas Securities LLC now owns 8,825 shares of the company’s stock worth $172,000 after buying an additional 3,100 shares in the last quarter. 72.70% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

About First Financial Bancorp

First Financial Bancorp. (First Financial) is a regional bank holding company. First Financial is engaged in the business of commercial banking and other banking and banking-related activities through its subsidiary, First Financial Bank, National Association (the Bank). The range of banking services provided by First Financial to individuals and businesses include commercial lending, real estate lending and consumer financing.

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