Option Traders Pay Up to Play Sinking Seadrill Ltd (SDRL)

Both puts and calls are trading at an accelerated clip on Seadrill Ltd (NYSE:SDRL) today

by Karee Venema

Published on Mar 7, 2016 at 2:31 PM

Option volume is running rampant on Seadrill Ltd (NYSE:SDRL) this afternoon. The stock is reacting to news that the rig operator will unveil a plan to refinance roughly $10 billion in debt in the second quarter -- last seen 1.3% lower at $5.89, sitting out a big intraday rally in crude futures. While calls and puts are trading at an accelerated clip, it looks as if a number of speculators are betting on today's negative price action to continue in both the short and long term.

Drilling down, short-term speculators appear to be initiating new positions at SDRL's weekly 3/24 2-strike put. If this is indeed the case, the objective is for the stock to plunge below $2 by the close on Friday, March 24 -- when the weekly options expire. This would mark a trek into record-low territory for the shares.

Elsewhere, it looks like longer-term option traders are purchasing new positions at SDRL's January 2018 4-strike put. This would suggest the speculative players are expecting the stock to breach $4 by January 2018 options expiration.

More broadly speaking, it's been call buyers who have been active in SDRL's options pits. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the security's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 1.29 ranks in the 75th percentile of its annual range. However, some of this may have been at the hands of short sellers hedging their bearish bets, considering 15.2% of the stock's float is sold short.

Regardless, those currently purchasing SDRL's short-term options are paying a pretty penny. Not only is the stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 276% docked above all other comparable readings taken in the past year, but its 30-day at-the-money implied volatility of 204.8% sits in the 99th annual percentile. Simply stated, premium on SDRL's near-term options is pricing in relatively lofty volatility expectations at the moment.

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