Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's (BABA) Troubles Seem Far from Over

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) almost became the latest victim to breach its IPO price

by Karee Venema

Published on Aug 21, 2015 at 1:31 PM
Updated on Aug 21, 2015 at 1:36 PM

While a handful of U.S.-listed China-based stocks have been able to avoid today's broad-market bloodshed, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) has not been so lucky. The shares are off 1.7% at $69.14, and earlier hit a record low of $68.30 -- just a chip-shot away from breaching their IPO price of $68 (a fate this social media stock and this fast-food chain have been unable to avoid).

In the options pits, intraday volume is running at 1.2 times what's typically seen at this point in the day. BABA's most active strike is the August 68 put, which appears to be seeing some sell-to-open activity. If speculators are indeed initiating new short positions here, the goal is for the security to stay north of its IPO price through tonight's close, when front-month options expire.

Elsewhere, it looks as if one speculator could be rolling down her bullish bet to a lower strike. Specifically, it appears as if a handful of September 85 calls were being sold to close at the same time symmetrical blocks of October 70 calls were being bought to open.

Widening the sentiment scope reveals option traders have shown a preference for calls over puts. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), BABA's 50-day call/put volume ratio is docked at 2.10. Echoing this is the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.81, which indicates call open interest outweighs put open interest among options expiring in three months or less.

This upbeat outlook is seen elsewhere on the Street, as well, which could spell trouble for BABA down the road. Of the 24 analysts covering the shares, 21 maintain a "buy" or better rating, with not a single "sell" to be found. Plus, the consensus 12-month price target of $96.63 stands in territory not charted since late January.

Should the shares continue to lose ground, an unwinding of optimism in the options pits and/or a round of downwardly revised brokerage notes could translate into a fresh wave of selling pressure. Looking ahead, roughly one billion shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) will become available next month, when the company's final lock-up period expires.

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