Kroger (NYSE:KR) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report issued to clients and investors on Wednesday.

According to Zacks, “Kroger has been trying all means to overcome stiff competition, which has intensified with the entrance of Amazon, volatility in food prices, promotional environment and dwindling store traffic. The company is expanding store base, introducing new items, digital coupons, and order online, pick up in store initiative. The company’s “Restock Kroger” program is gaining traction. The company's operational strategies present enormous opportunities to augment identical supermarket sales and enhance return on invested capital. These endeavors facilitated Kroger to post better-than-expected third-quarter fiscal 2017 results, wherein both the top and bottom lines grew year over year. This provided a much needed boost to the stock that outpaced the industry in three months. However, higher investments in new services and compelling pricing strategy may hurt margins. Further, a high debt load may impact credit worthiness.”

KR has been the subject of several other research reports. Oppenheimer cut Kroger to a “market perform” rating and cut their price target for the company from $28.00 to $23.00 in a report on Friday, September 8th. Pivotal Research set a $30.00 target price on Kroger and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a research note on Saturday, December 2nd. ValuEngine cut Kroger from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Sunday. Northcoast Research raised Kroger from a “neutral” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note on Monday, November 6th. Finally, BMO Capital Markets set a $29.00 target price on Kroger and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research note on Friday, December 1st. Eighteen equities research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating, ten have issued a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the stock. Kroger has an average rating of “Hold” and a consensus price target of $29.19.

Shares of Kroger (NYSE KR) traded up $0.85 on Wednesday, hitting $28.30. The stock had a trading volume of 11,693,300 shares, compared to its average volume of 8,357,700. The stock has a market capitalization of $24,590.00, a P/E ratio of 16.85, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 3.62 and a beta of 0.93. The company has a quick ratio of 0.31, a current ratio of 0.85 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 2.11. Kroger has a 1 year low of $19.69 and a 1 year high of $34.99.

Kroger (NYSE:KR) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, November 30th. The company reported $0.44 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.40 by $0.04. Kroger had a return on equity of 28.60% and a net margin of 1.31%. The company had revenue of $27.75 billion for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $27.48 billion. During the same quarter in the prior year, the business posted $0.41 earnings per share. Kroger’s revenue for the quarter was up 4.5% on a year-over-year basis. equities research analysts expect that Kroger will post 2.03 EPS for the current fiscal year.

In related news, COO Michael Joseph Donnelly sold 15,400 shares of Kroger stock in a transaction on Friday, December 28th. The stock was sold at an average price of $27.66, for a total value of $425,964.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the chief operating officer now directly owns 290,353 shares in the company, valued at $8,031,163.98. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available at the SEC website. Also, VP Carin L. Fike sold 1,538 shares of Kroger stock in a transaction on Friday, December 1st. The shares were sold at an average price of $25.61, for a total value of $39,388.18. Following the completion of the transaction, the vice president now owns 25,956 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $664,733.16. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last 90 days, insiders have sold 58,868 shares of company stock valued at $1,607,426. Company insiders own 0.87% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the business. IHT Wealth Management LLC lifted its holdings in Kroger by 122.1% during the 2nd quarter. IHT Wealth Management LLC now owns 2,770 shares of the company’s stock worth $376,000 after buying an additional 1,523 shares during the last quarter. Howe & Rusling Inc. purchased a new stake in Kroger during the 3rd quarter worth about $103,000. Mountain Capital Investment Advisors Inc purchased a new stake in Kroger during the 2nd quarter worth about $128,000. Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co. increased its position in shares of Kroger by 85.2% during the second quarter. Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co. now owns 5,888 shares of the company’s stock worth $137,000 after purchasing an additional 2,708 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Citizens Financial Group Inc RI increased its position in shares of Kroger by 4.3% during the second quarter. Citizens Financial Group Inc RI now owns 6,165 shares of the company’s stock worth $144,000 after purchasing an additional 255 shares in the last quarter. 79.59% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

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Kroger Company Profile

The Kroger Co (Kroger) manufactures and processes food for sale in its supermarkets. The Company operates supermarkets, multi-department stores, jewelry stores and convenience stores throughout the United States. As of January 28, 2017, it had operated approximately 4,000 owned or leased supermarkets, convenience stores, fine jewelry stores, distribution warehouses and food production plants through divisions, subsidiaries or affiliates.

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