Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE:NWN) from a buy rating to a hold rating in a research report sent to investors on Friday.

According to Zacks, “NW Natural is principally engaged in the distribution of natural gas. The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) has allocated to NW Natural as its exclusive service area a major portion of western Oregon, including the Portland metropolitan area, most of the fertile Willamette Valley and the coastal area from Astoria to Coos Bay. NW Natural also holds certificates from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) granting it exclusive rights to serve portions of three Washington counties bordering the Columbia River. “

NWN has been the subject of several other research reports. Wells Fargo & Company cut shares of Northwest Natural Gas from a market perform rating to an underperform rating in a report on Monday, December 18th. Royal Bank of Canada assumed coverage on shares of Northwest Natural Gas in a research report on Tuesday. They set a sector perform rating and a $63.00 price target on the stock. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, two have assigned a hold rating, one has given a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the stock. The company presently has a consensus rating of Hold and a consensus price target of $71.00.

Shares of Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE NWN) traded up $0.15 during trading on Friday, hitting $58.95. 88,280 shares of the company traded hands, compared to its average volume of 151,192. The company has a current ratio of 0.98, a quick ratio of 0.69 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.89. Northwest Natural Gas has a 12-month low of $56.53 and a 12-month high of $69.50. The stock has a market capitalization of $1,688.33, a PE ratio of 26.80, a PEG ratio of 6.01 and a beta of 0.39.

Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE:NWN) last issued its earnings results on Friday, November 3rd. The utilities provider reported ($0.30) earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of ($0.31) by $0.01. Northwest Natural Gas had a net margin of 8.32% and a return on equity of 7.31%. The firm had revenue of $88.20 million during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $91.19 million. During the same quarter last year, the company posted $1.18 earnings per share. The firm’s revenue was up .6% compared to the same quarter last year. analysts predict that Northwest Natural Gas will post 2.18 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

In related news, Director Martha L. Byorum sold 1,202 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Wednesday, September 27th. The shares were sold at an average price of $64.88, for a total transaction of $77,985.76. Following the sale, the director now owns 1,202 shares in the company, valued at $77,985.76. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which can be accessed through this link. 1.48% of the stock is currently owned by company insiders.

A number of hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in NWN. Bessemer Group Inc. grew its position in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 225.2% in the third quarter. Bessemer Group Inc. now owns 359,343 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $23,141,000 after purchasing an additional 248,857 shares during the period. Wells Fargo & Company MN grew its position in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 43.3% in the third quarter. Wells Fargo & Company MN now owns 163,412 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $10,523,000 after purchasing an additional 49,365 shares during the period. Griffin Asset Management Inc. acquired a new stake in shares of Northwest Natural Gas in the second quarter valued at about $2,394,000. State Street Corp grew its position in shares of Northwest Natural Gas by 5.1% in the second quarter. State Street Corp now owns 736,047 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $44,053,000 after purchasing an additional 35,852 shares during the period. Finally, First Washington CORP acquired a new stake in shares of Northwest Natural Gas in the third quarter valued at about $1,812,000. Institutional investors own 64.59% of the company’s stock.

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Northwest Natural Gas Company Profile

Northwest Natural Gas Company (NW Natural) is engaged in the distribution of natural gas. The Company’s segments include Local Gas Distribution, Gas Storage and other. The Company maintains operations in Oregon, Washington and California and conducts businesses through NW Natural and its subsidiaries.

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