Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Northwest Natural Gas Company (NYSE:NWN) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report sent to investors on Wednesday. They currently have $74.00 target price on the utilities provider’s stock.

According to Zacks, “NW Natural is principally engaged in the distribution of natural gas. The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) has allocated to NW Natural as its exclusive service area a major portion of western Oregon, including the Portland metropolitan area, most of the fertile Willamette Valley and the coastal area from Astoria to Coos Bay. NW Natural also holds certificates from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) granting it exclusive rights to serve portions of three Washington counties bordering the Columbia River. “

Several other brokerages also recently issued reports on NWN. BidaskClub downgraded Northwest Natural Gas from a buy rating to a hold rating in a report on Wednesday, July 19th. Sidoti reiterated a buy rating and issued a $75.00 price target (up from $68.00) on shares of Northwest Natural Gas in a report on Monday, June 19th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, two have given a hold rating, two have issued a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. Northwest Natural Gas currently has an average rating of Buy and an average price target of $66.00.

Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE:NWN) traded up 0.45% on Wednesday, reaching $67.60. The company had a trading volume of 63,506 shares. Northwest Natural Gas has a 12 month low of $53.50 and a 12 month high of $67.75. The stock has a market capitalization of $1.94 billion, a P/E ratio of 30.25 and a beta of 0.42. The firm has a 50-day moving average of $64.87 and a 200-day moving average of $61.30.

Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE:NWN) last issued its earnings results on Wednesday, August 2nd. The utilities provider reported $0.10 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.06 by $0.04. The business had revenue of $136.24 million for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $78.51 million. Northwest Natural Gas had a return on equity of 7.51% and a net margin of 8.38%. The business’s quarterly revenue was up 37.4% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period last year, the company posted $0.07 EPS. On average, equities research analysts expect that Northwest Natural Gas will post $2.18 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

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The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, August 15th. Investors of record on Monday, July 31st were issued a $0.47 dividend. The ex-dividend date was Thursday, July 27th. This represents a $1.88 annualized dividend and a yield of 2.78%. Northwest Natural Gas’s dividend payout ratio is currently 85.07%.

In related news, CEO David A. Weber sold 2,000 shares of the stock in a transaction on Tuesday, June 20th. The stock was sold at an average price of $61.56, for a total value of $123,120.00. Following the completion of the sale, the chief executive officer now directly owns 2,027 shares in the company, valued at approximately $124,782.12. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website. Also, CEO David Hugo Anderson sold 8,000 shares of the stock in a transaction on Tuesday, September 5th. The shares were sold at an average price of $66.97, for a total value of $535,760.00. Following the completion of the sale, the chief executive officer now owns 71,484 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $4,787,283.48. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last quarter, insiders sold 14,000 shares of company stock valued at $924,800. 1.48% of the stock is owned by insiders.

A number of hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. Creative Planning increased its holdings in Northwest Natural Gas by 0.3% in the 2nd quarter. Creative Planning now owns 2,436 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $146,000 after purchasing an additional 8 shares in the last quarter. Sharkey Howes & Javer grew its stake in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 0.8% during the first quarter. Sharkey Howes & Javer now owns 2,200 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $130,000 after acquiring an additional 17 shares in the last quarter. Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio grew its stake in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 2.0% during the second quarter. Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio now owns 2,063 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $123,000 after acquiring an additional 40 shares in the last quarter. Peregrine Asset Advisers Inc. grew its stake in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 1.3% during the second quarter. Peregrine Asset Advisers Inc. now owns 3,525 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $211,000 after acquiring an additional 45 shares in the last quarter. Finally, State of Alaska Department of Revenue grew its stake in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 1.9% during the first quarter. State of Alaska Department of Revenue now owns 3,160 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $186,000 after acquiring an additional 60 shares in the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 63.46% of the company’s stock.

About Northwest Natural Gas

Northwest Natural Gas Company (NW Natural) is engaged in the distribution of natural gas. The Company’s segments include Local Gas Distribution, Gas Storage and other. The Company maintains operations in Oregon, Washington and California and conducts businesses through NW Natural and its subsidiaries.

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