Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a research report report published on Saturday.

According to Zacks, “Concerned with Williams Companies’ high debt burden and regulatory setbacks suffered by its Constitution Pipeline project, we are downgrading our investment thesis from ‘Hold’ to ‘Sell’. WMB’s high leverage of over 71% restricts the financial flexibility of the firm to tap on growth opportunities. Further, Constitution Pipeline has been denied water permit by both New York DEC and FERC due to environmental reasons, crushing WMB's hopes to make the project operational till 2019. This has diluted the near-term earnings outlook. As it is, weaker- than-expected earnings in the last three quarters are likely to dampen investors’ confidence. The termination of the Energy Transfer deal has also been a big blow to the firm. We also need to factor the WMB’s low ROE and extensive exposure to natural gas, which translates into uncertain near-term outlook for the company. Hence we view WMB as a risky bet.”

WMB has been the subject of a number of other reports. Royal Bank of Canada restated a buy rating and issued a $38.00 price target on shares of Williams Companies in a research report on Tuesday, January 16th. Credit Suisse Group initiated coverage on Williams Companies in a research report on Thursday, January 4th. They issued an outperform rating and a $36.00 price target for the company. Morgan Stanley lowered their price target on Williams Companies from $34.00 to $33.00 and set an overweight rating for the company in a research report on Friday, November 17th. Jefferies Group restated a buy rating and issued a $37.00 price target on shares of Williams Companies in a research report on Friday, January 12th. Finally, Bank of America initiated coverage on Williams Companies in a research report on Tuesday, January 9th. They issued a buy rating for the company. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, three have assigned a hold rating, ten have issued a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. Williams Companies currently has a consensus rating of Buy and an average price target of $35.20.

Williams Companies (NYSE WMB) opened at $29.42 on Friday. The firm has a market cap of $24,320.00, a price-to-earnings ratio of 51.61, a P/E/G ratio of 2.40 and a beta of 1.32. Williams Companies has a fifty-two week low of $26.82 and a fifty-two week high of $33.67. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.38, a current ratio of 0.97 and a quick ratio of 0.91.

In other Williams Companies news, CEO Alan S. Armstrong bought 6,000 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, November 15th. The stock was acquired at an average cost of $27.23 per share, for a total transaction of $163,380.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the chief executive officer now owns 345,527 shares in the company, valued at $9,408,700.21. The acquisition was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through this link. Also, insider James E. Scheel sold 26,915 shares of Williams Companies stock in a transaction on Thursday, January 11th. The stock was sold at an average price of $33.00, for a total value of $888,195.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 0.50% of the stock is owned by company insiders.

Several large investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in WMB. BlackRock Inc. lifted its position in shares of Williams Companies by 12.4% during the fourth quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 77,428,540 shares of the pipeline company’s stock worth $2,360,797,000 after purchasing an additional 8,532,633 shares during the last quarter. CI Investments Inc. lifted its position in shares of Williams Companies by 22.1% during the third quarter. CI Investments Inc. now owns 7,195,800 shares of the pipeline company’s stock worth $215,946,000 after purchasing an additional 1,304,200 shares during the last quarter. Capital International Investors lifted its position in shares of Williams Companies by 11.8% during the third quarter. Capital International Investors now owns 8,252,900 shares of the pipeline company’s stock worth $247,670,000 after purchasing an additional 868,600 shares during the last quarter. Maple Brown Abbott Ltd lifted its position in shares of Williams Companies by 306.1% during the fourth quarter. Maple Brown Abbott Ltd now owns 1,089,602 shares of the pipeline company’s stock worth $68,906,000 after purchasing an additional 821,302 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP lifted its position in shares of Williams Companies by 43.4% during the third quarter. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP now owns 2,651,579 shares of the pipeline company’s stock worth $79,573,000 after purchasing an additional 802,813 shares during the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 84.56% of the company’s stock.

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About Williams Companies

The Williams Companies, Inc is an energy infrastructure company. The Company is focused on connecting North America’s hydrocarbon resource plays to markets for natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGL), and olefins. As of December 31, 2016, its interstate gas pipelines, midstream and olefins production interests were held through its investment in Williams Partners L.P.

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