UniFirst (NYSE:UNF) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a report released on Friday.

According to Zacks, “UniFirst Corporation has become an industry leader and remains one of the fastest growing companies in the Uniform and Textile Services business. Its business is the rental Lease and Sale of work clothing, uniforms, protective apparel, careerwear, and facility service products to businesses in virtually all industrial categories. The major portion of the Company’s business is Uniform Rental Service Programs, wherein it provides customers with all necessary products plus weekly cleaning, maintenance, and any needed replacements of work clothing. The Company became the first private industrial launderer to be granted a government license to process nuclear-contaminated garments. The Company has developed a separate division, UniTech Services Group, which now includes specialized plants throughout the United States and in Europe. UniFirst is a national leader in cleaning and decontaminating the garments worn by workers who maintain and refuel nuclear power and nuclear processing equipment. “

Several other equities research analysts have also recently weighed in on UNF. Robert W. Baird reduced their price objective on UniFirst from $170.00 to $152.00 and set an “outperform” rating for the company in a research report on Friday, January 4th. ValuEngine cut UniFirst from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Friday, January 4th.

Shares of UNF traded down $0.65 during mid-day trading on Friday, hitting $137.18. The company’s stock had a trading volume of 3,173 shares, compared to its average volume of 86,537. UniFirst has a one year low of $132.38 and a one year high of $193.05. The stock has a market capitalization of $2.65 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 18.45 and a beta of 0.77.

UniFirst (NYSE:UNF) last posted its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, January 3rd. The textile maker reported $1.88 earnings per share for the quarter, missing the consensus estimate of $1.92 by ($0.04). UniFirst had a net margin of 9.44% and a return on equity of 8.69%. The business had revenue of $438.60 million during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $433.21 million. During the same period in the prior year, the company posted $1.67 earnings per share. The firm’s revenue was up 5.5% compared to the same quarter last year. Equities research analysts anticipate that UniFirst will post 6.83 EPS for the current fiscal year.

UniFirst declared that its Board of Directors has approved a share repurchase plan on Thursday, January 3rd that permits the company to repurchase $100.00 million in shares. This repurchase authorization permits the textile maker to purchase up to 3.9% of its stock through open market purchases. Stock repurchase plans are usually a sign that the company’s management believes its stock is undervalued.

In related news, VP Cynthia Croatti sold 2,288 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Friday, December 14th. The stock was sold at an average price of $141.20, for a total value of $323,065.60. Following the completion of the transaction, the vice president now directly owns 10,883 shares in the company, valued at $1,536,679.60. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through the SEC website. Also, major shareholder The Ronald D. Croatti Trust – 1 sold 2,200 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Monday, December 17th. The shares were sold at an average price of $139.65, for a total value of $307,230.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold 8,888 shares of company stock valued at $1,295,180 over the last 90 days. 1.00% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the business. Zacks Investment Management acquired a new position in UniFirst during the second quarter worth $2,736,000. Bessemer Group Inc. raised its stake in UniFirst by 34.1% during the third quarter. Bessemer Group Inc. now owns 11,400 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $1,980,000 after acquiring an additional 2,900 shares in the last quarter. WINTON GROUP Ltd raised its stake in UniFirst by 1,127.6% during the second quarter. WINTON GROUP Ltd now owns 40,436 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $7,153,000 after acquiring an additional 37,142 shares in the last quarter. Eagle Asset Management Inc. raised its stake in UniFirst by 60.3% during the third quarter. Eagle Asset Management Inc. now owns 42,471 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $7,375,000 after acquiring an additional 15,982 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Wells Fargo & Company MN raised its stake in UniFirst by 3.5% during the third quarter. Wells Fargo & Company MN now owns 106,124 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $18,428,000 after acquiring an additional 3,578 shares in the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 76.41% of the company’s stock.

About UniFirst

UniFirst Corporation provides workplace uniforms and protective work wear clothing in the United States, Canada, and Europe. It operates through US Rental and Cleaning, Canadian Rental and Cleaning, Manufacturing, Specialty Garments Rental and Cleaning, and First Aid segments. The company designs, manufactures, personalizes, rents, cleans, delivers, and sells a range of uniforms and protective clothing, including shirts, pants, jackets, coveralls, lab coats, smocks, and aprons; and specialized protective wear, such as flame resistant and high visibility garments.

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