Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Northwest Natural Gas Company (NYSE:NWN) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research note released on Saturday. The brokerage currently has $75.00 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. “

Separately, BidaskClub raised Northwest Natural Gas from a hold rating to a buy rating in a report on Thursday, July 27th. One research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, one has given a hold rating, two have assigned a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. The company presently has a consensus rating of Buy and a consensus price target of $66.33.

Shares of Northwest Natural Gas (NWN) traded down $0.55 on Friday, reaching $66.70. The company had a trading volume of 230,323 shares, compared to its average volume of 103,363. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.89, a current ratio of 0.98 and a quick ratio of 0.69. The firm has a market capitalization of $1,915.16, a P/E ratio of 30.32, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 6.83 and a beta of 0.39. Northwest Natural Gas has a 52-week low of $55.60 and a 52-week high of $68.60.

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

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The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Wednesday, November 15th. Investors of record on Tuesday, October 31st were issued a $0.4725 dividend. This represents a $1.89 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.83%. This is an increase from Northwest Natural Gas’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.47. The ex-dividend date was Monday, October 30th. Northwest Natural Gas’s dividend payout ratio is 85.91%.

In other news, CEO David Hugo Anderson sold 8,000 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, September 5th. The stock was 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 directly owns 71,484 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $4,787,283.48. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through this hyperlink. Also, Director Martha L. Byorum sold 1,202 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, September 27th. The shares were sold at an average price of $64.88, for a total value of $77,985.76. Following the completion of the sale, the director now directly owns 1,202 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $77,985.76. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold 13,202 shares of company stock valued at $879,666 over the last three months. Corporate insiders own 1.48% of the company’s stock.

Several hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of NWN. Bessemer Group Inc. boosted its holdings in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 225.2% in the third quarter. Bessemer Group Inc. now owns 359,343 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $23,141,000 after acquiring an additional 248,857 shares during the period. Wells Fargo & Company MN boosted its holdings in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 43.3% in the third quarter. Wells Fargo & Company MN now owns 163,412 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $10,523,000 after acquiring an additional 49,365 shares during the period. First Trust Advisors LP boosted its holdings in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 13.9% in the second quarter. First Trust Advisors LP now owns 368,087 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $22,030,000 after acquiring an additional 44,973 shares during the period. Griffin Asset Management Inc. acquired a new stake in shares of Northwest Natural Gas in the second quarter valued at approximately $2,394,000. Finally, State Street Corp boosted its holdings in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 5.1% in the second quarter. State Street Corp now owns 736,047 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $44,053,000 after acquiring an additional 35,852 shares during the period. 63.73% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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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