Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (HOT) Bears Cheer M&A Letdown

It looks like rumors of a Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (HOT) merger are false

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Jul 30, 2015 at 2:11 PM

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (NYSE:HOT) spiked as much as 5.2% earlier, after reports surfaced the company had held preliminary merger talks with InterContinental Hotels Group PLC (ADR) (NYSE:IHG). However, HOT shares were last seen 3.4% lower at $79.84, after IHG said the two parties are not discussing joining forces. The see-saw price action has HOT back in the red on a year-to-date basis -- a welcome development for option bears.

HOT's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) currently stands at 1.10, indicating short-term put open interest outweighs call open interest. More significantly, this SOIR is higher than 92% of similar readings taken in the last year, suggesting a near-extreme put-bias among speculators focusing on options in the front three-months series.

Further reflecting options-related skepticism is HOT's 10-day put/call volume ratio at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX). This ratio comes in at 1.17, meaning traders have bought to open more puts than calls in recent weeks. Also, the reading rests in the 63rd percentile of its annual range.

Digging deeper in the front-month series, significant put open interest resides at a number of underfoot options -- especially the August 72.50 strike, with more than 16,300 contracts. In fact, it looks like almost all of these positions have been initiated in the last two weeks, suggesting some traders may be counting on a fairly sharp drop for HOT.

Outside of the options pits, sentiment is less clear-cut. Half of the analysts tracking the shares rate them a "buy" or better, while the other half have doled out "hold" recommendations. Plus, just 1.3% of the stock's float is sold short.

As described earlier, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (NYSE:HOT) is in the M&A crosshairs today, but it's also one of several companies that reported quarterly results. For the second quarter, the hotel operator topped per-share profit expectations, but its current-quarter earnings forecast fell shy of estimates.

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