Investors Buy Large Volume of Call Options on Ecolab (NYSE:ECL)

Ecolab Inc. (NYSE:ECL) was the recipient of some unusual options trading activity on Thursday. Investors acquired 17,003 call options on the company. This represents an increase of approximately 742% compared to the average daily volume of 2,019 call options.

NYSE:ECL opened at $200.50 on Friday. The firm has a market cap of $57.96 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 37.90, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 3.82 and a beta of 0.99. Ecolab has a 12-month low of $124.60 and a 12-month high of $211.24. The company has a current ratio of 1.51, a quick ratio of 1.15 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.76. The company’s 50-day moving average is $182.15 and its two-hundred day moving average is $186.92.

Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, April 28th. The basic materials company reported $1.13 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $1.06 by $0.07. The business had revenue of $3.58 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $3.49 billion. Ecolab had a net margin of 10.32% and a return on equity of 20.12%. The company’s revenue was up 2.2% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the firm posted $1.03 EPS. On average, equities research analysts forecast that Ecolab will post 5.06 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Wednesday, July 15th. Investors of record on Tuesday, June 16th will be given a dividend of $0.47 per share. This represents a $1.88 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 0.94%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Monday, June 15th. Ecolab’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 32.30%.

A number of research firms have recently weighed in on ECL. Citigroup lowered their price target on shares of Ecolab from $185.00 to $164.00 and set a “neutral” rating on the stock in a research note on Thursday, April 9th. JPMorgan Chase & Co. cut shares of Ecolab from a “neutral” rating to an “underweight” rating and lowered their price target for the stock from $200.00 to $152.00 in a research note on Tuesday, March 17th. Argus decreased their price objective on shares of Ecolab from $250.00 to $230.00 and set a “buy” rating on the stock in a research report on Wednesday, April 29th. UBS Group boosted their price objective on shares of Ecolab from $165.00 to $200.00 and gave the stock a “neutral” rating in a research report on Wednesday, April 29th. Finally, BMO Capital Markets boosted their price objective on shares of Ecolab from $171.00 to $177.00 and gave the stock a “market perform” rating in a research report on Wednesday, April 29th. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, eleven have assigned a hold rating and three have given a buy rating to the stock. Ecolab has a consensus rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $188.15.

In related news, EVP Jill S. Wyant sold 24,084 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Wednesday, February 26th. The shares were sold at an average price of $195.07, for a total value of $4,698,065.88. Following the completion of the sale, the executive vice president now owns 34,018 shares in the company, valued at approximately $6,635,891.26. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website. Also, EVP Jill S. Wyant sold 72,606 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Monday, February 24th. The shares were sold at an average price of $204.02, for a total transaction of $14,813,076.12. Following the completion of the sale, the executive vice president now owns 34,018 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $6,940,352.36. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold 108,844 shares of company stock valued at $21,878,694 in the last 90 days. Company insiders own 1.22% of the company’s stock.

A number of institutional investors and hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of the stock. The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company increased its position in Ecolab by 15.4% during the 1st quarter. The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company now owns 273,577 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $42,631,000 after purchasing an additional 36,602 shares in the last quarter. FDx Advisors Inc. increased its position in Ecolab by 5.8% during the 1st quarter. FDx Advisors Inc. now owns 4,758 shares of the basic materials company’s stock worth $741,000 after purchasing an additional 259 shares in the last quarter. Clearbridge Investments LLC grew its position in Ecolab by 2.2% in the first quarter. Clearbridge Investments LLC now owns 5,644,155 shares of the basic materials company’s stock valued at $879,529,000 after acquiring an additional 119,338 shares in the last quarter. Patton Albertson Miller Group LLC grew its position in Ecolab by 7.4% in the first quarter. Patton Albertson Miller Group LLC now owns 12,225 shares of the basic materials company’s stock valued at $1,905,000 after acquiring an additional 845 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Peninsula Asset Management Inc. grew its position in Ecolab by 8.4% in the first quarter. Peninsula Asset Management Inc. now owns 25,367 shares of the basic materials company’s stock valued at $3,953,000 after acquiring an additional 1,971 shares in the last quarter. 74.17% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Ecolab Company Profile

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

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