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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- First Financial Bancorp (FFBC) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from Hold to Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate FIRST FINL BANCORP INC/OH (FFBC) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its expanding profit margins, attractive valuation levels, increase in net income and solid stock price performance. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity."
Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:
- The gross profit margin for FIRST FINL BANCORP INC/OH is currently very high, coming in at 92.59%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 19.20% trails the industry average.
- FIRST FINL BANCORP INC/OH reported flat earnings per share in the most recent quarter. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past two years. However, we anticipate this trend to reverse over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, FIRST FINL BANCORP INC/OH reported lower earnings of $0.84 versus $1.15 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.18 versus $0.84).
- FFBC, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 0.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 2.3%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to not be hurting the bottom line, shown by stable earnings per share.
- Compared to where it was a year ago today, the stock is now trading at a higher level, regardless of the company's weak earnings results. Looking ahead, the stock's rise over the last year has already helped drive it to a level which is relatively expensive compared to the rest of its industry. We feel, however, that the other strengths this company displays justify these higher price levels.
- You can view the full analysis from the report here: FFBC Ratings Report