Brinker International, Inc. (NYSE:EAT) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a report released on Friday.

According to Zacks, “Brinker’s aggressive expansion strategies and sales building initiatives like streamlining of menu and innovation value offerings along with its loyalty program should boost comps. Increased focus on company-owned restaurants, which allows it to have full control over operations, is also expected to boost the bottom as well as the top line. Also, various operational, remodeling and digital initiatives are likely to drive growth. However, the company’s revenues missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in eight of the trailing ten quarters, mainly due to traffic decline at its restaurants. Also, Brinker’s shares have underperformed the industry year to date. Further, higher labor as well as costs related to various initiatives might continue to hurt margins, while overall choppiness in the restaurant space might keep on pressurizing comps in the coming quarters.”

EAT has been the topic of several other research reports. ValuEngine upgraded Brinker International from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note on Thursday, July 27th. Telsey Advisory Group cut their price objective on Brinker International from $49.00 to $40.00 and set a “market perform” rating on the stock in a research note on Monday, July 17th. Royal Bank Of Canada restated a “sector perform” rating and set a $40.00 price objective (down previously from $49.00) on shares of Brinker International in a research note on Wednesday, August 9th. Maxim Group restated a “buy” rating and set a $49.00 price objective on shares of Brinker International in a research note on Tuesday. Finally, BidaskClub cut Brinker International from a “sell” rating to a “strong sell” rating in a research note on Friday, July 28th. Two investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, thirteen have given a hold rating and three have assigned a buy rating to the company. The company presently has a consensus rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $45.67.

Brinker International (NYSE:EAT) traded up 2.48% on Friday, hitting $33.00. The stock had a trading volume of 831,986 shares. The company’s 50 day moving average is $33.29 and its 200 day moving average is $39.07. Brinker International has a 12-month low of $29.50 and a 12-month high of $55.84. The firm has a market cap of $1.60 billion, a PE ratio of 11.22 and a beta of 0.26.

Brinker International (NYSE:EAT) last released its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, August 10th. The restaurant operator reported $1.09 EPS for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $1.04 by $0.05. Brinker International had a negative return on equity of 31.46% and a net margin of 4.79%. The business had revenue of $810.66 million for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $809.94 million. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm posted $1.24 earnings per share. The company’s revenue was down 8.1% compared to the same quarter last year. On average, equities research analysts expect that Brinker International will post $3.24 EPS for the current fiscal year.

Brinker International declared that its Board of Directors has initiated a share repurchase program on Thursday, August 10th that allows the company to repurchase $250.00 million in shares. This repurchase authorization allows the restaurant operator to repurchase up to 14.6% of its shares through open market purchases. Shares repurchase programs are generally a sign that the company’s board of directors believes its stock is undervalued.

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In other Brinker International news, Director Michael A. George acquired 16,450 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, September 6th. The stock was acquired at an average cost of $30.31 per share, with a total value of $498,599.50. Following the acquisition, the director now directly owns 49,952 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $1,514,045.12. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Corporate insiders own 1.76% of the company’s stock.

A number of hedge funds have recently modified their holdings of EAT. BlackRock Inc. grew its holdings in Brinker International by 10,393.8% in the 1st quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 3,975,272 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $174,753,000 after buying an additional 3,937,390 shares in the last quarter. Marshall Wace North America L.P. bought a new position in Brinker International in the 2nd quarter worth approximately $42,664,000. Balyasny Asset Management LLC grew its holdings in Brinker International by 3,244.4% in the 2nd quarter. Balyasny Asset Management LLC now owns 899,246 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $34,261,000 after buying an additional 872,358 shares in the last quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. grew its holdings in Brinker International by 15.4% in the 1st quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 5,544,617 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $243,741,000 after buying an additional 738,302 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Alliancebernstein L.P. grew its holdings in Brinker International by 33.8% in the 1st quarter. Alliancebernstein L.P. now owns 2,236,357 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $98,310,000 after buying an additional 565,294 shares in the last quarter.

Brinker International Company Profile

Brinker International, Inc is engaged in the ownership, operation, development, and franchising of the Chili’s Grill & Bar (Chili’s) and Maggiano’s Little Italy (Maggiano’s) restaurant brands. The Company’s Chili’s operates Bar & Grill category of casual dining. Chili’s menu features authentic Fresh Mex and Fresh Tex cuisine, including signature items, such as Baby Back Ribs smoked in-house, Hand-Crafted Burgers served with house-made garlic dill pickles, Mix and Match Fajitas, Tableside Guacamole and house-made Chips and Salsa.

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