The Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo, Inc. Make a Play for Chobani

The Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) and PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE:PEP) are competing to buy a stake in Chobani

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Oct 13, 2015 at 2:41 PM

While M&A buzz has beer stocks in focus, a pair of soft drink makers are also in the news. Specifically, late yesterday, Reuters reported that The Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) and PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE:PEP) are jockeying to buy a minority stake in Greek yogurt producer Chobani LLC. Wall Street isn't impressed, though, as the stocks are edging lower to the delight of recent put buyers.

For starters, KO is off 0.7% at $41.70, and has lost 1.2% on the year. While the stock bounced back after hitting a late-August annual low of $36.56, it is struggling in the $42 area -- where it stalled about two months ago. Potentially contributing to technical resistance is a heavy accumulation of call open interest at the October 42 strike, home to 13,836 contracts.

Given these technicals, it should come as little surprise that traders have bought to open KO puts over calls at an accelerated clip in recent weeks. Specifically, the stock's 10-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) put/call volume ratio of 1.04 rests a mere 5 percentage points from a 52-week high.

By contrast, many within the brokerage crowd have kept the faith. In fact, over half of the analysts tracking The Coca-Cola Co still consider it a "buy" or better. From a contrarian perspective, this could lend itself to a future round of downgrades.

PEP has fared better on the charts. Off 0.6% this afternoon at $98.57, the stock has nonetheless advanced 4.2% in 2015. Longer term, the round $100 century level has served as a notable layer of resistance for roughly one year.

If PEP can break north of $100 -- and top its all-time high of $100.76 -- option bears could get forced to the exits. The equity's 50-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX put/call volume ratio of 1.03 outstrips 96% of comparable readings from the prior year. Conversely, analysts are already in PepsiCo, Inc.'s bullish corner, doling out 14 "buy" or better ratings, compared to three "holds" and not a single "sell."

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