Twitter Inc (TWTR) Takeover Rumors Entice Option Bulls

Could Microsoft Corporation's (MSFT) former CEO take Twitter Inc (TWTR) private?

Aug 3, 2016 at 1:55 PM
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Takeover rumors have sent several stocks higher in recent days, and today's big beneficiary is Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR). The social media stock has soared 8.6% to trade at $17.83, and garnered plenty of attention in the options arena, amid unsubstantiated speculation former Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer or Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal could take TWTR private. Rumor has it the stock could fetch as much as $25 per share in a sale, too.

TWTR's options pits are heating up on the buyout buzz, as well, especially on the call side of the aisle. Specifically, calls are trading at three times the expected intraday pace, and also nearly triple the rate of puts. The two most active options are the weekly 8/5 17- and 17.50-strike calls, where speculators are buying new short-term positions. In other words, these buyers are counting on extended upside through week's end, when the series expires.

While calls have been the options of choice in recent weeks on an absolute basis, the demand for puts has picked up considerably, relatively speaking. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), TWTR's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.51 outranks nearly nine in 10 comparable readings recorded in the prior year. Echoing this relative put-skew is the stock's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.65, which registers in the 77th percentile of its annual range.

The options pits aren't the only place negativity's detected. Among the 27 analysts covering TWTR, the stock has received 23 "hold" or worse suggestions. Plus, the shares' consensus 12-month price target of $16.83 represents a discount to current levels.

Why the skepticism? Well, notwithstanding Twitter Inc's (NYSE:TWTR) intraday gains, the social media stock is a technical dud. Heading into today's session, the shares were sitting on a 29% year-to-date deficit, exacerbated by their recent post-earnings sell-off.

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