Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Northwest Natural Gas Company (NYSE:NWN) from a sell rating to a hold rating in a research note released on Wednesday.

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. “

Separately, BidaskClub raised shares of Northwest Natural Gas from a hold rating to a buy rating in a report on Thursday, July 27th. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, two have issued a hold rating, one has issued a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the stock. The stock currently has an average rating of Hold and an average target price of $66.00.

Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE:NWN) traded down $0.20 on Wednesday, reaching $66.55. 83,600 shares of the company’s stock were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 94,894. Northwest Natural Gas has a 52-week low of $53.50 and a 52-week high of $68.60. The company has a quick ratio of 0.69, a current ratio of 0.98 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.89. The company has a market cap of $1,910.85, a price-to-earnings ratio of 30.25, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 6.82 and a beta of 0.39.

Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE:NWN) last posted its earnings results on Friday, November 3rd. The utilities provider reported ($0.30) earnings per share for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of ($0.31) by $0.01. Northwest Natural Gas had a net margin of 8.32% and a return on equity of 7.31%. The firm had revenue of $88.20 million for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $91.19 million. During the same period in the previous year, the firm posted $1.18 EPS. The company’s revenue for the quarter was up .6% compared to the same quarter last year. research analysts expect that Northwest Natural Gas will post 2.17 EPS for the current fiscal year.

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The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Wednesday, November 15th. Shareholders of record on Tuesday, October 31st will be issued a dividend of $0.4725 per share. This represents a $1.89 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.84%. This is a positive change from Northwest Natural Gas’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.47. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Monday, October 30th. Northwest Natural Gas’s payout ratio is presently 85.91%.

In other Northwest Natural Gas news, Director Martha L. Byorum sold 1,202 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, September 27th. The shares were sold at an average price of $64.88, for a total transaction of $77,985.76. Following the sale, the director now directly owns 1,202 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $77,985.76. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at this hyperlink. Also, VP Grant M. Yoshihara sold 2,000 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, August 30th. The stock was sold at an average price of $66.03, for a total transaction of $132,060.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the vice president now owns 15,301 shares in the company, valued at approximately $1,010,325.03. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold a total of 13,202 shares of company stock worth $879,666 over the last three months. Insiders own 1.48% of the company’s stock.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of NWN. BlackRock Inc. lifted its position in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 12,672.6% in the 1st quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 3,607,352 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $213,194,000 after purchasing an additional 3,579,109 shares during the period. Bessemer Group Inc. lifted its position in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 225.2% in the 3rd quarter. Bessemer Group Inc. now owns 359,343 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $23,141,000 after purchasing an additional 248,857 shares during the period. Vanguard Group Inc. lifted its position in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 4.7% in the 1st quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 2,703,884 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $159,800,000 after purchasing an additional 120,458 shares during the period. Wells Fargo & Company MN lifted its position in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 43.3% in the 3rd quarter. Wells Fargo & Company MN now owns 163,412 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $10,523,000 after purchasing an additional 49,365 shares during the period. Finally, First Trust Advisors LP lifted its position in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 13.9% in the 2nd quarter. First Trust Advisors LP now owns 368,087 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $22,030,000 after purchasing an additional 44,973 shares during the period. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 63.30% 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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