Piedmont Natural Gas Company, Inc. (NYSE:PNY) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a report released on Thursday. The brokerage currently has a $67.00 target price on the stock. Zacks Investment Research’s price objective suggests a potential upside of 11.54% from the company’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “Piedmont Natural Gas Co, Inc., is an energy and services company engaged in the transportation and sale of natural gas and the sale of propane to residential, commercial and industrial customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Company is the second-largest natural gas utility in the southeast. The Company and its non-utility subsidiaries and divisions are also engaged in acquiring, marketing and arranging for the transportation and storage of natural gas for large-volume purchasers, and in the sale of propane to customers in the Company’s three-state service area. “

Shares of Piedmont Natural Gas Company (NYSE:PNY) opened at 60.07 on Thursday. The stock has a market capitalization of $4.99 billion, a P/E ratio of 34.58 and a beta of 0.87. Piedmont Natural Gas Company has a one year low of $38.18 and a one year high of $60.35. The stock has a 50 day moving average price of $60.00 and a 200 day moving average price of $59.90.

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Piedmont Natural Gas Company (NYSE:PNY) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Wednesday, September 7th. The company reported ($0.07) earnings per share for the quarter, beating the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of ($0.09) by $0.02. Piedmont Natural Gas Company had a return on equity of 10.50% and a net margin of 12.20%. The firm earned $157.80 million during the quarter. The business’s revenue was down .3% on a year-over-year basis. Equities analysts forecast that Piedmont Natural Gas Company will post $1.94 earnings per share for the current year.

The firm also recently declared a special dividend, which will be paid on Friday, January 13th. Investors of record on Friday, December 23rd will be paid a $0.34 dividend. The ex-dividend date is Wednesday, December 21st. This represents a dividend yield of 2.26%. Piedmont Natural Gas Company’s dividend payout ratio is presently 79.07%.

In related news, VP Kenneth T. Valentine sold 886 shares of Piedmont Natural Gas Company stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, July 19th. The stock was sold at an average price of $59.77, for a total value of $52,956.22. Following the completion of the transaction, the vice president now owns 22,481 shares in the company, valued at approximately $1,343,689.37. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Also, insider Kevin M. Ohara sold 5,000 shares of Piedmont Natural Gas Company stock in a transaction dated Friday, July 29th. The shares were sold at an average price of $59.78, for a total value of $298,900.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the insider now owns 68,571 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $4,099,174.38. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 1.40% of the stock is owned by corporate insiders.

Several institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in PNY. FMR LLC raised its position in shares of Piedmont Natural Gas Company by 137.7% in the second quarter. FMR LLC now owns 3,656,500 shares of the company’s stock valued at $219,829,000 after buying an additional 2,118,033 shares in the last quarter. Water Island Capital LLC boosted its stake in Piedmont Natural Gas Company by 198.6% in the second quarter. Water Island Capital LLC now owns 1,220,625 shares of the company’s stock valued at $73,384,000 after buying an additional 811,812 shares during the last quarter. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. boosted its stake in Piedmont Natural Gas Company by 400.5% in the first quarter. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. now owns 840,581 shares of the company’s stock valued at $50,291,000 after buying an additional 672,642 shares during the last quarter. Magnetar Financial LLC boosted its stake in Piedmont Natural Gas Company by 67.1% in the first quarter. Magnetar Financial LLC now owns 1,667,738 shares of the company’s stock valued at $99,781,000 after buying an additional 669,962 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Norges Bank purchased a new stake in Piedmont Natural Gas Company during the fourth quarter valued at about $37,456,000. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 62.95% of the company’s stock.

About Piedmont Natural Gas Company

Piedmont Natural Gas Company, Inc is an energy services company. The Company’s principal business is the distribution of natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial and power generation customers in portions of North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, including customers served by municipalities, which are its wholesale customers.

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