Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report report published on Wednesday. The firm currently has $176.00 price target on the basic materials company’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Ecolab’s stock has outperformed its industry in a year's time. A strong guidance instills optimism on the stock. Ecolab has also undertaken a cost-efficiency initiative that is expected to result in approximately $200 million of SG&A savings by 2021. Strong prospects in Global Industrial segment buoy optimism. Europe, North America and Latin America have been driving Global Industrial regional growth. Strength in the Global Institutional segment led by growth in the Specialty and Healthcare business lines is also a positive. Robust product portfolio and an expanding customer base are likely to drive organic sales. Despite strength in the Pest Elimination business, the Other segment declined year over year on a reported basis in the last quarter. Ecolab operates in highly competitive markets, which might mar prospects over the long haul. Ecolab faces pricing pressure in the Energy segment, which is likely to hurt profits.”

A number of other analysts have also recently weighed in on the stock. UBS Group raised their price target on shares of Ecolab from $165.00 to $180.00 and gave the company a buy rating in a report on Tuesday, October 2nd. ValuEngine upgraded shares of Ecolab from a hold rating to a buy rating in a report on Friday, September 7th. Oppenheimer raised their price target on shares of Ecolab from $153.00 to $156.00 and gave the company an outperform rating in a report on Tuesday, August 7th. Nomura raised their price target on shares of Ecolab from $146.00 to $153.00 and gave the company a neutral rating in a report on Monday, August 13th. Finally, Credit Suisse Group raised their price target on shares of Ecolab from $140.00 to $142.00 and gave the company a neutral rating in a report on Wednesday, August 1st. Eight analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and ten have issued a buy rating to the company’s stock. Ecolab currently has an average rating of Buy and a consensus price target of $151.87.

Ecolab stock traded up $0.03 during midday trading on Wednesday, hitting $145.98. 1,430,042 shares of the company’s stock were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 1,189,445. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.80, a current ratio of 1.27 and a quick ratio of 0.84. Ecolab has a 12 month low of $125.74 and a 12 month high of $159.92. The stock has a market cap of $45.29 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 31.13, a PEG ratio of 2.28 and a beta of 0.95.

Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) last issued its earnings results on Tuesday, July 31st. The basic materials company reported $1.27 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, hitting the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $1.27. Ecolab had a net margin of 10.83% and a return on equity of 18.96%. The company had revenue of $3.69 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $3.69 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the business earned $1.13 EPS. The firm’s quarterly revenue was up 6.6% on a year-over-year basis. On average, equities analysts expect that Ecolab will post 5.37 earnings per share for the current year.

The business also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Monday, October 15th. Investors of record on Tuesday, September 18th will be paid a $0.41 dividend. This represents a $1.64 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 1.12%. The ex-dividend date is Monday, September 17th. Ecolab’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 34.97%.

In related news, EVP Michael A. Hickey sold 32,468 shares of Ecolab stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, September 13th. The shares were sold at an average price of $155.80, for a total value of $5,058,514.40. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through the SEC website. Also, EVP Larry L. Berger sold 9,317 shares of Ecolab stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, September 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $153.65, for a total transaction of $1,431,557.05. Following the completion of the sale, the executive vice president now owns 31,093 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $4,777,439.45. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold a total of 114,885 shares of company stock valued at $17,369,786 over the last quarter. 1.50% of the stock is owned by company insiders.

A number of institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of the stock. Bank of Montreal Can grew its holdings in Ecolab by 37.9% during the third quarter. Bank of Montreal Can now owns 307,791 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $48,256,000 after purchasing an additional 84,558 shares during the period. Eagle Capital Management LLC grew its holdings in Ecolab by 1.7% during the third quarter. Eagle Capital Management LLC now owns 22,668 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $3,554,000 after purchasing an additional 381 shares during the period. Chesley Taft & Associates LLC grew its holdings in Ecolab by 0.8% during the third quarter. Chesley Taft & Associates LLC now owns 106,492 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $16,696,000 after purchasing an additional 795 shares during the period. Rathbone Brothers plc grew its holdings in Ecolab by 43.7% during the third quarter. Rathbone Brothers plc now owns 7,314 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $1,147,000 after purchasing an additional 2,223 shares during the period. Finally, Spearhead Capital Advisors LLC boosted its holdings in shares of Ecolab by 1.7% during the third quarter. Spearhead Capital Advisors LLC now owns 24,250 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $3,816,000 after acquiring an additional 394 shares during the period. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 76.26% of the company’s stock.

About Ecolab

Ecolab Inc provides water, hygiene, and energy technologies and services for customers worldwide. The company operates through Global Industrial, Global Institutional, and Global Energy segments. The Global Industrial segment provides water treatment and process applications, and cleaning and sanitizing solutions primarily to large industrial customers within the manufacturing, food and beverage processing, chemical, mining and primary metals, power generation, pulp and paper, and commercial laundry industries.

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