Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Sonic Automotive (NYSE:SAH) from a sell rating to a hold rating in a research report released on Tuesday. The firm currently has $23.00 price target on the stock.

According to Zacks, “Sonic Automotive actively pursues capital deployment strategies to boost shareholder value. The company plans to offset dilution caused by equity compensation awards through regular share repurchase programs. It is expected that over the long term, the company has the ability to enhance service capacity and raise revenues. However, weakness in the Houston market, where Sonic Automotive has considerable exposure, is also likely to adversely impact its sales and profit. In the last six months, the company's shares have underperformed in the industry it belongs to.”

Other equities research analysts have also recently issued reports about the stock. ValuEngine cut shares of Sonic Automotive from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research report on Friday, November 10th. Bank of America upgraded shares of Sonic Automotive from an underperform rating to a neutral rating and set a $23.00 price target for the company in a report on Monday, January 8th. Finally, TheStreet upgraded shares of Sonic Automotive from a c+ rating to a b rating in a report on Wednesday, October 18th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, four have given a hold rating and two have issued a buy rating to the stock. The company has a consensus rating of Hold and an average target price of $22.75.

Sonic Automotive (SAH) traded up $0.65 on Tuesday, hitting $22.25. 339,251 shares of the stock traded hands, compared to its average volume of 313,743. Sonic Automotive has a 52 week low of $15.95 and a 52 week high of $27.45. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.41, a quick ratio of 0.26 and a current ratio of 1.06. The firm has a market capitalization of $933.01, a PE ratio of 14.54, a PEG ratio of 3.40 and a beta of 1.57.

Sonic Automotive (NYSE:SAH) last posted its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, October 24th. The company reported $0.40 earnings per share for the quarter, hitting the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.40. Sonic Automotive had a net margin of 0.70% and a return on equity of 10.47%. The company had revenue of $2.51 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $2.54 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the company posted $0.47 earnings per share. Sonic Automotive’s revenue for the quarter was down 2.0% compared to the same quarter last year. equities research analysts anticipate that Sonic Automotive will post 1.82 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, January 12th. Shareholders of record on Friday, December 15th were issued a $0.05 dividend. This represents a $0.20 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 0.90%. The ex-dividend date was Thursday, December 14th. Sonic Automotive’s payout ratio is 13.07%.

In other Sonic Automotive news, EVP Jeff Dyke sold 8,551 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Tuesday, October 31st. The shares were sold at an average price of $20.10, for a total value of $171,875.10. Following the completion of the sale, the executive vice president now directly owns 1,262,056 shares in the company, valued at $25,367,325.60. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at the SEC website. Also, CFO Heath Byrd sold 11,000 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Friday, October 27th. The stock was sold at an average price of $20.43, for a total transaction of $224,730.00. Following the completion of the sale, the chief financial officer now owns 143,306 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $2,927,741.58. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Company insiders own 30.29% of the company’s stock.

Several institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the business. Vanguard Group Inc. lifted its stake in shares of Sonic Automotive by 3.0% in the second quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 2,415,314 shares of the company’s stock valued at $46,977,000 after buying an additional 71,059 shares in the last quarter. Northern Trust Corp lifted its stake in shares of Sonic Automotive by 23.6% in the second quarter. Northern Trust Corp now owns 1,201,056 shares of the company’s stock valued at $23,360,000 after buying an additional 228,935 shares in the last quarter. Towle & Co. lifted its stake in shares of Sonic Automotive by 18.8% in the third quarter. Towle & Co. now owns 1,122,759 shares of the company’s stock valued at $22,904,000 after buying an additional 177,535 shares in the last quarter. Elliott Management Corp lifted its stake in shares of Sonic Automotive by 17.6% in the second quarter. Elliott Management Corp now owns 892,275 shares of the company’s stock valued at $17,355,000 after buying an additional 133,700 shares in the last quarter. Finally, State Street Corp lifted its stake in shares of Sonic Automotive by 2.0% in the second quarter. State Street Corp now owns 839,717 shares of the company’s stock valued at $16,336,000 after buying an additional 16,540 shares in the last quarter. 64.40% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

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About Sonic Automotive

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

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