Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) Stake Lowered by Securian Asset Management Inc

Securian Asset Management Inc cut its stake in Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) by 1.1% in the third quarter, according to the company in its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The fund owned 270,720 shares of the company’s stock after selling 3,033 shares during the quarter. Securian Asset Management Inc’s holdings in Merck & Co., Inc. were worth $19,205,000 at the end of the most recent quarter.

Several other hedge funds also recently made changes to their positions in MRK. Sawyer & Company Inc grew its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 10.7% in the 2nd quarter. Sawyer & Company Inc now owns 22,984 shares of the company’s stock valued at $1,395,000 after purchasing an additional 2,215 shares during the period. Worldquant Millennium Quantitative Strategies LLC acquired a new position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. in the 2nd quarter valued at approximately $23,693,000. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC grew its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 37.0% in the 2nd quarter. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC now owns 122,748 shares of the company’s stock valued at $7,451,000 after purchasing an additional 33,153 shares during the period. Jennison Associates LLC grew its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 11.0% in the 2nd quarter. Jennison Associates LLC now owns 924,946 shares of the company’s stock valued at $56,144,000 after purchasing an additional 91,879 shares during the period. Finally, HL Financial Services LLC grew its position in shares of Merck & Co., Inc. by 0.7% in the 2nd quarter. HL Financial Services LLC now owns 217,281 shares of the company’s stock valued at $13,189,000 after purchasing an additional 1,540 shares during the period. 72.29% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

In other Merck & Co., Inc. news, SVP Ashley Watson sold 47,036 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, October 31st. The stock was sold at an average price of $74.33, for a total transaction of $3,496,185.88. Following the completion of the transaction, the senior vice president now owns 32,990 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $2,452,146.70. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available at this hyperlink. Also, insider Roger M. Perlmutter sold 225,443 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, November 8th. The stock was sold at an average price of $75.27, for a total value of $16,969,094.61. Following the sale, the insider now owns 366,998 shares in the company, valued at approximately $27,623,939.46. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last ninety days, insiders have sold 1,279,104 shares of company stock valued at $92,845,846. Insiders own 0.32% of the company’s stock.

MRK has been the subject of several research analyst reports. SunTrust Banks boosted their price objective on Merck & Co., Inc. from $77.00 to $80.00 and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Monday, October 29th. Citigroup boosted their price objective on Merck & Co., Inc. from $79.00 to $84.00 and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Wednesday, October 31st. Bank of America boosted their price objective on Merck & Co., Inc. from $70.00 to $74.00 and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Monday, July 30th. Zacks Investment Research upgraded Merck & Co., Inc. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $80.00 price objective for the company in a research report on Monday, October 8th. Finally, Morgan Stanley set a $74.00 price objective on Merck & Co., Inc. and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Thursday, August 23rd. Four analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and thirteen have issued a buy rating to the company. Merck & Co., Inc. presently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $72.53.

NYSE:MRK opened at $74.67 on Friday. Merck & Co., Inc. has a twelve month low of $52.83 and a twelve month high of $76.61. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.61, a current ratio of 1.44 and a quick ratio of 1.15. The company has a market cap of $201.65 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 18.76, a PEG ratio of 2.03 and a beta of 0.73.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) last released its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, October 25th. The company reported $1.19 earnings per share for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $1.14 by $0.05. Merck & Co., Inc. had a return on equity of 34.48% and a net margin of 8.44%. The firm had revenue of $10.79 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $10.87 billion. On average, sell-side analysts forecast that Merck & Co., Inc. will post 4.34 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

Merck & Co., Inc. announced that its Board of Directors has initiated a share repurchase program on Thursday, October 25th that authorizes the company to buyback $10.00 billion in outstanding shares. This buyback authorization authorizes the company to reacquire up to 5.1% of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback programs are often an indication that the company’s leadership believes its stock is undervalued.

The company also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Tuesday, January 8th. Shareholders of record on Monday, December 17th will be given a dividend of $0.55 per share. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Friday, December 14th. This represents a $2.20 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.95%. This is an increase from Merck & Co., Inc.’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.48. Merck & Co., Inc.’s dividend payout ratio is 48.24%.

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About Merck & Co., Inc.

Merck & Co, Inc provides healthcare solutions worldwide. It operates in four segments: Pharmaceutical, Animal Health, Healthcare Services, and Alliances. The company offers therapeutic and preventive agents to treat cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, asthma, nasal allergy symptoms, allergic rhinitis, chronic hepatitis C virus, HIV-1 infection, fungal, intra-abdominal infections, hypertension, arthritis and pain, inflammatory, osteoporosis, and fertility diseases.

Further Reading: The risks of owning bonds

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Institutional Ownership by Quarter for Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)

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