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Research in Motion Traders Place Pre-Earnings Bets

Breaking down an options hedge ahead of earnings from RIMM

by 12/20/2012 12:14 PM
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The shares of Research In Motion Limited (USA) (NASDAQ:RIMM - 13.75) have more than doubled since late September, though it looks like the options crowd is still wary of the BlackBerry maker. During the past two weeks on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock has racked up a put/call volume ratio of 0.88. Compared to similar readings taken during the past year, this ratio ranks in the 77th percentile, pointing to a healthier-than-usual appetite for bearish bets of late.

Echoing that trend, the stock has seen roughly 40,000 puts cross the tape so far today -- a 51% increase to its average midday put volume. Digging even deeper, though, it appears a healthy amount of the volume could be attributable to a pre-earnings "insurance" play.

Specifically, symmetrical blocks of several thousand contracts crossed at the January 12 put and January 16 call. The puts traded at the ask price of $0.62, suggesting they were bought, while the calls crossed at the bid price of $0.62, implying they were likely sold. Implied volatility on the put was last seen higher, and volume has exceeded open interest at the call strike -- both signs of new initiations.

Assuming the puts and calls were bought and sold to open, respectively, and since all of the options are out of the money, it looks like the trader established a no-cost collar. Or, in a nutshell, the premium received for the covered calls paid for the protective puts. By establishing this play, the RIMM shareholder has guaranteed a minimum sale price of $12 for his or her stake, should the stock take a tumble and the puts move into the money. On the flip side, the trader could have to sell their stake for $16 per share -- and miss out on additional upside -- should RIMM surmount the $16 level within the next month.

As alluded to earlier, the aforementioned strategist likely initiated the collar as a pre-earnings hedge, with the company set to report its quarterly figures tonight. According to Thomson Reuters, the firm has reported stronger-than-expected earnings in two of the last four quarters, and the stock enjoyed a post-earnings bump of roughly 5% last go-round. Analysts, on average, are anticipating a third-quarter loss of 36 cents per share.

At last check, the shares of RIMM have tacked on 0.9% to hover near the $13.75 marker.


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