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Costco upgraded by Wells Fargo, predicts special dividend soon

Costco upgraded by Wells Fargo, predicts special dividend soon

Costco shares will thrive this year due to larger than expected capital return to shareholders, according to one Wall Street firm.

Wells Fargo raised its rating for Costco shares to outperform from market perform, citing the company’s financial benefits from tax reform.

“We expect the company to sustain strong comp momentum despite difficult comparisons, deliver improved membership trends, navigate rising retail cost pressures, and beat consensus expectations,” analyst Edward Kelly wrote in a note to clients Monday. “The potential for the declaration of a special dividend sooner than expected could represent another catalyst for the stock.”

Kelly increased his price target for the stock to $220 from $195, representing a 16.5 percent upside from Friday’s close.

The analyst said the retailer issued special dividends of 4 percent to 7 percent on its stock price every two to three years since 2012. He predicts Costco’s cash position will rise faster than previous years due to the benefits from corporate tax reform.

“While the most recent dividend was paid in May of last year, we believe there is potential for the company to accelerate this timeline given our estimate of a 14% FCF [free cash flow] benefit from tax reform and the company’s strong underlying cash flow,” he wrote. “We expect this combination to drive cash levels near $7.5bn by the end of the fiscal year, which is roughly in-line with the level achieved when the 2015 payment was made.”

The company’s stock closed 3 percent higher Monday after the report.

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this story.

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