Equity investors last week lapped up the news that AmSurg plans to acquire physician services company Sheridan for more than $2 billion, but debt ratings agency Moody's isn't nearly as ebullient. Analysts Ron NeySmith and Peter Abdill say they are putting AmSurg's Ba3 rating under review for a downgrade because the Sheridan deal will push the company's debt levels to about six times its EBITDA. CFO Claire Gulmi last week said the AmSurg team expects to quickly work that ratio back down into the 4s, but the Moody's analysts say they see the Sheridan transaction marking a shift to "a much more aggressive acquisition strategy."
Color John Ransom enthusiastic about AmSurg's game-changing play for Sheridan Healthcare. The veteran Raymond James analyst has upgraded shares of the ambulatory surgery company all the way to 'strong buy' from 'market perform' and sees the stock (Ticker: AMSG) rising to $60 from the $45.74 where it closed Thursday. Ransom also has raised his 2015 EPS estimate for AmSurg to $3.15 from $2.77.
Shares of LifePoint Hospitals hit an all-time high of $63.07 Friday morning thanks in part to an upgrade from Ann Hynes at Mizuho. Hynes now rates the hospital operator a 'buy' instead of a 'neutral' and has raised her target to $72 from $58. LifePoint shares (Ticker: LPNT) are up almost 2 percent to $61.99 in late-morning trading.
Veteran analyst Joe France at Cantor Fitzgerald helped give AmSurg shares a pop Wednesday by raising his rating to 'buy' from 'hold.' France sees the second half of this year delivering some positive surprises and has lifted his price target from $42 all the way to $55. AmSurg shares (Ticker: AMSG) were up 3 percent to almost $49 in mid-day action.
Jefferies has begun formally covering shares of Healthways with a 'hold' rating. Analyst David Styblo values the stock at $17, which is 2 percent above where they opened trading (Ticker: HWAY) this morning.
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