BCE, Inc. (NYSE:BCE) (TSE:BCE) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research report issued on Thursday. The firm currently has a $50.00 price target on the utilities provider’s stock. Zacks Investment Research‘s price objective points to a potential upside of 10.40% from the stock’s current price.

According to Zacks, “Over the past three months, share price of BCE inched up 2.79% while the Zacks classified Diversified Communication Services industry declined 0.18%. Meanwhile, the buyout of Manitoba Telecom Services by BCE's arm, Bell Canada places Bell Canada as one of the largest mobile provider in Manitoba with more than 470,000 wireless subscribers. Buyout of Q9 Networks boosts the company's cloud suite and $854 million investment will aid its fiber-optics network suite. BCE’s strategic moves to enhance employee skills, increase capital investments and reduce expenditures looks impressive. Deployment of Gigabit Fibe, 4G LTE mobile networks, upcoming 5G networks, IP phone services and post-paid businesses should help the company gain customers. However, BCE continues to face multiple problems such as stringent regulatory norms, loss in network access services lines, price competition, labor union issues, operational risks and construction delays”

A number of other brokerages also recently issued reports on BCE. Barclays PLC assumed coverage on BCE in a research note on Tuesday, March 21st. They set an “overweight” rating and a $47.00 price objective for the company. Citigroup Inc. raised shares of BCE from a “neutral” rating to a “buy” rating in a report on Thursday, April 6th. Canaccord Genuity set a $60.00 target price on shares of BCE and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research note on Tuesday, May 16th. Finally, BidaskClub upgraded shares of BCE from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Tuesday, June 13th. One research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, three have given a hold rating and six have given a buy rating to the stock. The company currently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average target price of $59.22.

BCE (NYSE BCE) traded down 0.33% during mid-day trading on Thursday, reaching $45.14. 383,293 shares of the company’s stock traded hands. The stock has a 50 day moving average of $45.01 and a 200 day moving average of $44.39. The company has a market cap of $40.60 billion, a P/E ratio of 18.14 and a beta of 0.38. BCE has a 12-month low of $41.83 and a 12-month high of $49.03.

BCE (NYSE:BCE) (TSE:BCE) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Wednesday, April 26th. The utilities provider reported $0.66 EPS for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.65 by $0.01. BCE had a return on equity of 22.03% and a net margin of 13.36%. The business had revenue of $5.38 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $5.37 billion. During the same quarter in the prior year, the business posted $0.85 earnings per share. The business’s quarterly revenue was up 2.2% on a year-over-year basis. On average, equities research analysts predict that BCE will post $2.54 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Saturday, July 15th. Investors of record on Thursday, June 15th will be given a dividend of $0.5316 per share. This represents a $2.13 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 4.70%. The ex-dividend date is Tuesday, June 13th. BCE’s dividend payout ratio is currently 85.89%.

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Hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. Wellington Management Group LLP increased its stake in shares of BCE by 1.9% in the first quarter. Wellington Management Group LLP now owns 13,247,536 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $584,936,000 after buying an additional 244,009 shares during the period. FMR LLC boosted its position in BCE by 3.6% in the first quarter. FMR LLC now owns 12,274,108 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $543,445,000 after buying an additional 424,228 shares in the last quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. boosted its position in BCE by 9.0% in the first quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 6,839,144 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $302,769,000 after buying an additional 564,047 shares in the last quarter. Bank of America Corp DE boosted its position in BCE by 25.9% in the first quarter. Bank of America Corp DE now owns 6,384,703 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $282,651,000 after buying an additional 1,311,603 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Letko Brosseau & Associates Inc. boosted its position in BCE by 0.4% in the first quarter. Letko Brosseau & Associates Inc. now owns 6,323,053 shares of the utilities provider’s stock worth $279,464,000 after buying an additional 22,155 shares in the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 44.21% of the company’s stock.

About BCE

BCE Inc is a communications company. The Company’s segments include Bell Wireless, Bell Wireline and Bell Media. Its Bell Wireless segment provides wireless voice and data communications products and services to its residential, small and medium-sized business and large enterprise customers across Canada.

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