Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research note released on Saturday, Zacks.com reports. Zacks Investment Research currently has $71.00 price target on the insurance provider’s stock.

According to Zacks, “W.R. Berkley’s shares have outperformed its industry in a year’s time. The company has been investing in numerous startups since 2006 and establishing new units in growing international markets provided diversification benefits. Establishing operating units in North and Southeast Asia are also in line with the strategy. It boasts a prudent capital management policy that also enhances shareholders value. The company’s international business has potential for long-term earnings growth. The company witnessed steady net premium growth on the back of rate improvement. However, exposure to a highly competitive reinsurance market and pressure on the rate environment are concerns. Rising debt has been inducing higher interest expenses. Exposure to catastrophe loss inducing volatility in underwriting profitability remains a headwind.”

WRB has been the subject of several other research reports. Deutsche Bank reissued a hold rating and set a GBX 1,775 ($23.19) price target on shares of in a research report on Wednesday, June 26th. ValuEngine raised XPO Logistics from a strong sell rating to a sell rating in a research report on Thursday, April 4th. Royal Bank of Canada raised Freeport-McMoRan from an underperform rating to a sector perform rating and lifted their price objective for the company from $12.00 to $14.00 in a research report on Wednesday. Boenning Scattergood reaffirmed a hold rating on shares of First Commonwealth Financial in a research report on Wednesday, April 24th. Finally, UBS Group lifted their price objective on W. R. Berkley from $53.00 to $56.00 and gave the company a sell rating in a research report on Wednesday, April 24th. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, four have given a hold rating and two have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock has an average rating of Hold and an average price target of $61.34.

W. R. Berkley stock traded up $1.11 during mid-day trading on Friday, hitting $70.32. 804,035 shares of the company were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 521,334. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.48, a current ratio of 0.37 and a quick ratio of 0.37. The firm has a 50 day moving average price of $66.60. The firm has a market cap of $12.88 billion, a P/E ratio of 26.34, a P/E/G ratio of 2.85 and a beta of 0.73. W. R. Berkley has a 12-month low of $45.91 and a 12-month high of $70.36.

W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB) last released its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday, July 23rd. The insurance provider reported $0.82 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.64 by $0.18. The company had revenue of $1.65 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.63 billion. W. R. Berkley had a return on equity of 10.75% and a net margin of 8.81%. W. R. Berkley’s revenue was up 4.2% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter last year, the business posted $1.40 earnings per share. Analysts forecast that W. R. Berkley will post 2.82 EPS for the current year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, July 2nd. Stockholders of record on Tuesday, June 18th were given a $0.11 dividend. The ex-dividend date was Monday, June 17th. This represents a $0.44 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 0.63%. This is an increase from W. R. Berkley’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.10. W. R. Berkley’s payout ratio is currently 16.48%.

In other news, Director Mark Ellwood Brockbank sold 77,000 shares of W. R. Berkley stock in a transaction on Thursday, June 20th. The stock was sold at an average price of $66.61, for a total value of $5,128,970.00. Following the completion of the sale, the director now owns 51,329 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $3,419,024.69. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. 21.70% of the stock is owned by insiders.

Large investors have recently made changes to their positions in the company. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC acquired a new position in W. R. Berkley in the second quarter valued at $27,000. Hanson McClain Inc. boosted its holdings in W. R. Berkley by 50.0% in the second quarter. Hanson McClain Inc. now owns 525 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $35,000 after acquiring an additional 175 shares during the last quarter. Asset Dedication LLC boosted its holdings in W. R. Berkley by 49.9% in the second quarter. Asset Dedication LLC now owns 571 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $38,000 after acquiring an additional 190 shares during the last quarter. St. Johns Investment Management Company LLC boosted its holdings in W. R. Berkley by 50.0% in the second quarter. St. Johns Investment Management Company LLC now owns 750 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $49,000 after acquiring an additional 250 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Whittier Trust Co. of Nevada Inc. boosted its holdings in W. R. Berkley by 50.0% in the second quarter. Whittier Trust Co. of Nevada Inc. now owns 750 shares of the insurance provider’s stock valued at $49,000 after acquiring an additional 250 shares during the last quarter. 72.63% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

About W. R. Berkley

W. R. Berkley Corporation, an insurance holding company, operates as a commercial lines writer in the United States and internationally. It operates through two segments, Insurance and Reinsurance. The Insurance segment underwrites commercial insurance business, including premises operations, commercial automobile, property, products liability, and professional liability lines.

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Analyst Recommendations for W. R. Berkley (NYSE:WRB)

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