Banking & Finance

2 Years After Equifax Data Breach, Is All Now Forgiven?

Chris Lange

Data breaches have become a growing concern among consumers as nobody wants their private information and identities stolen. One such breach that gained the ire of the American consumer happened at Equifax Inc. (NYSE: EFX) in 2017. While the company suffered at the time, it has recovered since and one independent research firm believes the stock can break out further from here.

Argus upgraded Equifax to a Buy rating from Hold with a $165 price target, implying an upside of 9% from the most recent closing price of $151.02. One main reason for this call is that shares broke through a longstanding line of resistance dating back to just before the data breach.

Some quick background on the breach: The company experienced a major hack of its data in mid-2017, which sent the shares plummeting when it was disclosed months later, but it has largely recovered under the leadership of a new CEO.

In the wake of the incident, hundreds of lawsuits were filed against Equifax. On July 22, the company announced the settlement of its U.S. consumer lawsuits and federal regulatory matters related to the data breach. Under the terms of the settlement, Equifax agreed to pay at least $575 million and up to $700 million. The deadline for most of the claims relating to the settlement is January 22, 2020.

According to Argus:

While Equifax will continue to face costs related to technology and security upgrades, its business seems to be improving. For the first time in over two years, the company experienced margin expansion in the third quarter; mortgage market inquiries were also stronger than management had expected; and the company reached a global settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, providing visibility on the potential impact of its legal challenges.

Equifax will report its fourth-quarter results in mid-February 2020. The consensus forecast calls for adjusted earnings of $1.49 per share and $896 million in revenue. When the company reported third-quarter results, it also issued guidance calling for EPS in the range of $1.47 to $1.52 and revenue between $885 million and $900 million.

Shares of Equifax were last seen up about 1.5% at $153.23, in a 52-week range of $101.49 to $153.54. The consensus price target is $149.18.