On Mar 11, Zacks Investment Research upgraded
Peoples Bancorp Inc.
) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
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Why the Upgrade?
The uptick in the rank of this Ohio-based regional bank was
driven by strong estimate revisions due to a number of factors
that include a strategic acquisition, strong fourth-quarter 2013
results and a dividend hike. Notably, the company has delivered
positive earnings surprises in all four quarters of 2013 with an
average beat of 16.1%. Further, the long-term expected EPS growth
rate of this stock now stands at 4.0%.
The recent acquisition deal by Peoples Bancorp strengthens its
inorganic growth strategy. On Jan 2014, the company inked a cash
plus stock deal to acquire Wellston, Ohio-based
) for $12.6 million. The deal, which is expected to complete in
second-quarter 2014, will enhance earnings in 2015 as incremental
earnings of 2014 will be offset by non recurring acquisition
On Jan 23, Peoples Bancorp released its fourth-quarter and
full-year 2013 results. Earnings per share in the reported
quarter came in at 47 cents, outpacing the Zacks Consensus
Estimate by 38.2%. Results benefited from top-line growth,
partially offset by higher operating expenses.
Further, the company sustained its organic growth strategies as
Peoples Bancorp's loan and deposit balances witnessed an
improvement. As of Dec 31, 2013, net loans increased 21.9%
year over year to $1.2 billion, while total deposits were up 5.9%
to $1.6 billion.
Additionally, on Jan 23, the company announced a 7% hike in its
quarterly cash dividend to 15 cents per share. The dividend was
paid on Feb 18, to shareholders of record Feb 3.
Over the last 60 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2014
advanced 3.2% to $1.92 per share, while it declined marginally to
$2.06 per share for 2015.
Other Stocks to Consider
Other stocks in this space worth considering include
First Financial Corp.
First Merchants Corp.
). Both the stocks hold the same Zacks Rank as Peoples