Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE:XEL) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a research note issued to investors on Wednesday.

According to Zacks, “Xcel Energy's operation is subject to stringent environmental legislations which call for additional expenditures and can adversely impact the company's profits. Rising debt levels of Xcel Energy is a concern, with its debt/capital ratio presently higher than the industry average. Despite safety measures, nuclear units run the possibility of accidents and forced shutdown, and Xcel Energy’s nuclear generation assets are not immune to such risks. Annual estimates have been going down ahead of the company’s Q3 earnings release. However, long-term investment plans will strengthen its operations and help it to serve its expanding customer base in a more reliable and efficient manner. The company is also benefiting from improving economic conditions in its service territories. The company is focused on expanding its renewable generation assets and lowering its carbon footprint.”

A number of other equities research analysts have also commented on the company. SunTrust Banks Inc. dropped their target price on Xcel Energy from $42.00 to $41.00 and set a “neutral” rating on the stock in a research report on Monday, August 29th. JPMorgan Chase & Co. set a $49.00 price objective on Xcel Energy and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a research report on Thursday, September 8th. Argus restated a “buy” rating and issued a $48.00 price objective (up previously from $46.00) on shares of Xcel Energy in a research report on Wednesday, June 15th. Finally, Jefferies Group upped their price objective on Xcel Energy from $42.00 to $45.00 and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research report on Thursday, August 4th. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, five have assigned a hold rating and three have issued a buy rating to the stock. Xcel Energy presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of C$43.75.

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Shares of Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) traded up 0.31% during trading on Wednesday, reaching $41.65. 1,096,002 shares of the company were exchanged. Xcel Energy has a one year low of $33.78 and a one year high of $45.42. The stock has a 50-day moving average price of $42.04 and a 200-day moving average price of $41.91. The stock has a market capitalization of $21.16 billion, a PE ratio of 19.75 and a beta of 0.11.

Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) last issued its earnings results on Wednesday, August 3rd. The company reported $0.39 EPS for the quarter, missing the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.40 by $0.01. The firm earned $2.50 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $2.52 billion. Xcel Energy had a net margin of 9.92% and a return on equity of 10.10%. Xcel Energy’s quarterly revenue was down .6% on a year-over-year basis. During the same quarter in the prior year, the company earned $0.39 EPS. Analysts forecast that Xcel Energy will post $2.20 EPS for the current year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, October 20th. Stockholders of record on Thursday, September 15th will be paid a dividend of $0.34 per share. This represents a $1.36 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 3.28%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Tuesday, September 13th. Xcel Energy’s payout ratio is 64.46%.

In related news, EVP Marvin E. Jr. Mcdaniel sold 11,900 shares of the stock in a transaction on Friday, August 26th. The stock was sold at an average price of C$41.66, for a total value of C$495,754.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the executive vice president now directly owns 79,404 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately C$3,307,970.64. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website. 0.20% of the stock is owned by corporate insiders.

A number of hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of the stock. Teachers Advisors Inc. increased its position in Xcel Energy by 45.0% in the first quarter. Teachers Advisors Inc. now owns 2,842,673 shares of the company’s stock valued at $118,881,000 after buying an additional 882,870 shares in the last quarter. TIAA CREF Investment Management LLC increased its position in Xcel Energy by 10.0% in the first quarter. TIAA CREF Investment Management LLC now owns 5,145,297 shares of the company’s stock valued at $215,176,000 after buying an additional 469,394 shares in the last quarter. Ngam Advisors L.P. increased its position in Xcel Energy by 235.9% in the first quarter. Ngam Advisors L.P. now owns 55,050 shares of the company’s stock valued at $2,302,000 after buying an additional 38,663 shares in the last quarter. Los Angeles Capital Management & Equity Research Inc. increased its position in Xcel Energy by 8.3% in the first quarter. Los Angeles Capital Management & Equity Research Inc. now owns 91,171 shares of the company’s stock valued at $3,813,000 after buying an additional 6,950 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Ironwood Financial llc purchased a new position in Xcel Energy during the first quarter valued at approximately $161,000. 70.91% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Xcel Energy Company Profile

Xcel Energy Inc is a public utility holding company. The Company’s operations include activity of four utility subsidiaries that serve electric and natural gas customers. Its segments are regulated electric utility, regulated natural gas utility and all other. The regulated electric utility segment generates, transmits and distributes electricity in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico.

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