Southern (NYSE:SO) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note issued on Friday.

According to Zacks, “Southern Company is one of the largest and best-managed electric utility holding companies in the United States, dominating the power business across the southeastern region. With good rate base growth and constructive regulation, it is expected to generate steady earnings and dividend growth in the coming years through long-term power contracts. Additionally, SO's $12 billion AGL Resources buy has significantly increased its customer base and diversified offerings. However, continued timing and cost overrun issues over two large construction projects – Vogtle and Kemper – are major overhangs. While the $25 billion Vogtle nuclear plant has gone well over budget and is years behind schedule, Southern's Kemper project suffered yet another setback with the suspension of all coal gasification operations amid additional cost burden. Hence, Southern Company warrants a cautious stance from the investors.”

Other research analysts have also issued reports about the stock. Credit Suisse Group lowered shares of Southern from a “neutral” rating to an “underperform” rating and cut their price objective for the stock from $46.00 to $43.00 in a report on Thursday, August 9th. Bank of America cut their price objective on shares of Southern from $47.00 to $46.00 and set an “underperform” rating on the stock in a report on Wednesday, August 22nd. Guggenheim lowered shares of Southern from a “buy” rating to a “neutral” rating and cut their price objective for the stock from $50.00 to $47.00 in a report on Wednesday, August 8th. Scotiabank reiterated a “hold” rating and set a $44.00 price objective on shares of Southern in a report on Thursday, August 9th. Finally, Evercore ISI lowered shares of Southern from an “in-line” rating to an “underperform” rating in a report on Thursday, August 9th. Six analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, eleven have given a hold rating and one has assigned a buy rating to the company. The stock currently has a consensus rating of “Hold” and a consensus target price of $45.96.

Southern stock opened at $47.18 on Friday. Southern has a 12-month low of $42.38 and a 12-month high of $52.03. The stock has a market cap of $48.64 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 15.62, a PEG ratio of 3.47 and a beta of -0.09. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.48, a quick ratio of 0.58 and a current ratio of 0.72.

Southern (NYSE:SO) last released its quarterly earnings results on Wednesday, November 7th. The utilities provider reported $1.14 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $1.07 by $0.07. Southern had a net margin of 10.35% and a return on equity of 12.88%. The company had revenue of $6.70 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $6.68 billion. During the same period last year, the company earned $1.12 EPS. The firm’s revenue for the quarter was up 8.0% compared to the same quarter last year. As a group, equities research analysts expect that Southern will post 3.03 EPS for the current fiscal year.

A number of hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of SO. CIBC World Markets Inc. grew its position in Southern by 1.0% in the third quarter. CIBC World Markets Inc. now owns 106,867 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $4,659,000 after acquiring an additional 1,071 shares in the last quarter. Moloney Securities Asset Management LLC grew its position in Southern by 17.1% in the second quarter. Moloney Securities Asset Management LLC now owns 7,474 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $346,000 after acquiring an additional 1,093 shares in the last quarter. Andra AP fonden grew its position in Southern by 2.1% in the second quarter. Andra AP fonden now owns 52,500 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $2,431,000 after acquiring an additional 1,100 shares in the last quarter. Prime Capital Investment Advisors LLC grew its position in Southern by 10.6% in the third quarter. Prime Capital Investment Advisors LLC now owns 11,597 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $506,000 after acquiring an additional 1,107 shares in the last quarter. Finally, BB&T Corp grew its position in Southern by 0.7% in the second quarter. BB&T Corp now owns 157,644 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $7,301,000 after acquiring an additional 1,138 shares in the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 57.31% of the company’s stock.

About Southern

The Southern Company, through its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. The company also constructs, acquires, owns, and manages power generation assets, including renewable energy facilities and sells electricity in the wholesale market; and distributes natural gas in Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, and Maryland, as well as provides gas marketing services, wholesale gas services, and gas midstream operations.

Read More: How to interpret a stock’s beta number

Get a free copy of the Zacks research report on Southern (SO)

For more information about research offerings from Zacks Investment Research, visit Zacks.com

Analyst Recommendations for Southern (NYSE:SO)

Receive News & Ratings for Southern Daily - Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of the latest news and analysts' ratings for Southern and related companies with MarketBeat.com's FREE daily email newsletter.