NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of Willis Group Holdings PLC (WSH) are up 1.79% to $41.53 in early afternoon trading after the company was upgraded to "hold" from "sell" at Deutsche Bank earlier on Thursday.
The firm raised the price target to $40 from $36 for the London-based multinational risk advisor, insurance brokerage and reinsurance brokerage company.
Deutsche Bank set annual EPS to $2.36 from $2.31 for fiscal 2014, and to $2.52 from $2.53 for fiscal 2015.
"We believe two impending large M&A deals will use up any excess cash and perhaps require additional debt, thereby increasing the overall leverage of the company," said Deutsche Bank research analyst Joshua Shanker.
Separately, TheStreet Ratings team rates WILLIS GROUP HOLDINGS PLC as a Hold with a ratings score of C+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate WILLIS GROUP HOLDINGS PLC (WSH) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed -- some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and revenue growth. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, generally higher debt management risk and premium valuation."
Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:
- WILLIS GROUP HOLDINGS PLC reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past year. We feel that this trend should continue. This trend suggests that the performance of the business is improving. During the past fiscal year, WILLIS GROUP HOLDINGS PLC turned its bottom line around by earning $2.05 versus -$2.61 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.45 versus $2.05).
- The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly outperformed against the S&P 500 and exceeded that of the Insurance industry average. The net income increased by 74.1% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from -$27.00 million to -$7.00 million.
- The debt-to-equity ratio of 1.02 is relatively high when compared with the industry average, suggesting a need for better debt level management.
- WSH has underperformed the S&P 500 Index, declining 10.82% from its price level of one year ago. Looking ahead, other than the push or pull of the broad market, we do not see anything in the company's numbers that may help reverse the decline experienced over the past 12 months. Despite the past decline, the stock is still selling for more than most others in its industry.
- You can view the full analysis from the report here: WSH Ratings Report