Southern Co Stock Downgraded (SO)

Editor's Note: Any reference to TheStreet Ratings and its underlying recommendation does not reflect the opinion of TheStreet, Inc. or any of its contributors including Jim Cramer or Stephanie Link.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Southern (NYSE: SO) has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from buy to hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, good cash flow from operations and growth in earnings per share. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including poor profit margins, a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself and generally higher debt management risk.

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Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • SO's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 3.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 6.0%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 97.42% to $1,686.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, SOUTHERN CO has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 41.56%.
  • SOUTHERN CO has improved earnings per share by 9.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, SOUTHERN CO reported lower earnings of $1.87 versus $2.67 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.76 versus $1.87).
  • The company's current return on equity has slightly decreased from the same quarter one year prior. This implies a minor weakness in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Electric Utilities industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, SOUTHERN CO has outperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for SOUTHERN CO is currently lower than what is desirable, coming in at 33.28%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the weak results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 10.97% is above that of the industry average.

The Southern Company, together with its subsidiaries, operates as a public electric utility company. Southern has a market cap of $37.34 billion and is part of the utilities sector and utilities industry. Shares are up 3% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

You can view the full Southern Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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