Pandora Media Inc (P) Options Pits Hot Amid Erratic Trading

There's been some notable activity on Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) amid speculation the company could put itself up for sale

by Josh Selway

Published on Feb 12, 2016 at 11:57 AM
Updated on Feb 12, 2016 at 12:01 PM

Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) shot higher Thursday afternoon, as reports surfaced the company is considering selling itself. After being halted for a short time, shares of the streaming music stock jumped from around $8 to as high as $9.64, before closing up 8.2% at $9.09. Last night, P delivered disappointing fourth-quarter earnings, refused to comment on the for-sale rumors, and received a round of price-target cuts (although FBR upped its outlook to "outperform" from "market perform"). As such, the media stock is now 16.5% lower at $7.59 -- after earlier hitting a three-year low of $7.10 -- and on the short-sale restricted list, sending traders streaming to its options pits.

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Taking a quick step back, there was interesting activity in P's options pits ahead of yesterday's surge. Specifically, a large block of June 10 puts crossed shortly before 2 p.m. ET. It appears as if this block was sold -- and with open interest declining overnight -- it seems one trader may have liquidated his bearish position in the nick of time.

Meanwhile, volume is extremely elevated in today's trading. Calls are crossing at nine times the average intraday clip, with put volume at eight times the norm. By the numbers, roughly 19,000 calls and 12,000 puts are on the tape.

On the call side, about half of the action has taken place at the June 9 call. In fact, over 10,000 contracts have crossed here, compared to around 2,000 at the next closest strike. Data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE) confirms buy-to-open activity, meaning traders are betting on P to topple $9 by June options expiration. 

As for puts, it seems traders are opening bearish positions at the June 7 strike. If this is the case, they're speculating on a move below $7 by June expiration. For the record, the lowest P has ever traded is $7.08 in November 2012.

Historically speaking, put buying has been the strategy of choice among speculators. In fact, P's 10-day put/call volume ratio at the ISE, Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) comes in at 1.24, which is just 2 percentage points from an annual high

But while bears were active in the options arena ahead of Pandora Media Inc's (NYSE:P) earnings report, they were hitting the exits elsewhere. In fact, short interest dropped 22.8% during the latest reporting period. However, there's plenty of skepticism left among the short crowd, considering over 15% of P's float is still sold short. 

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