Cronos Calls Fly Off the Shelves on Altria Stake

Altria is investing $1.8 billion in the weed company

by Andrea Kramer

Published on Dec 7, 2018 at 9:50 AM

The shares of Canadian pot stock Cronos Group Inc (NASDAQ:CRON) have skyrocketed out of the gate today, after cigarette maker Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO) said it would take a $1.8 billion, 45% stake in the company. CRON stock rallied earlier this week on rumors of Altria buyout interest. At last check, the equity is up 33% at $13.89, on pace for its highest close ever.

CRON options are flying off the shelves already. Within the first few minutes of trading, the equity has seen roughly 11,000 calls change hands, and about 3,600 put options. Most active is the January 2019 30-strike call, the buyers of which expect CRON to more than double within the next several weeks.

Cronos shorts could be feeling the heat today. Short interest increased by 11.5% in the past two reporting periods, and now accounts for more than 17% of the security's total available float.

MO stock is also up on the news, as well as a fresh "overweight" rating and $64 price target at Barclays. The shares were last seen 2.7% higher at $55.86. From a longer-term perspective, Altria stock suffered a brutal November, going from a Nov. 9 high above $66 to to a three-year low of $52.90 by Nov. 26. Weighing on the shares were talks of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on menthol cigarettes.

Most analysts are already in Altria's corner, though. Despite FDA fears and the equity's recent plunge, 10 of 14 brokerage firms already consider MO a "buy" or better, with not a "sell" in sight.

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