Monsanto Company (MON) Option Bulls Shoot for New Highs Amid Takeover Chatter

Fresh takeover talk is enticing Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) call buyers

by Josh Selway

    Published on Aug 4, 2016 at 3:08 PM

    Unlike this sector peer, agricultural stock Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) is up 2% today at $106.49, after Bloomberg reported Bayer AG is considering a higher bid for the company. Monsanto has already turned down a $125 per-share offer from Bayer, with analysts suggesting to Bloomberg that the next offer could be in the $130-$135 range. This would mark a roughly 22%-27% premium to the stock's current price. What's more, the news has sparked unusual trading activity in MON's options pits. 

    For example, MON call options are trading at twice their average intraday volume. The September 110, 115, and 120 calls are popular, as are the front-month August 108, 110, and 120 calls. 

    Put volume is also extremely elevated, currently arriving in the 98th annual percentile, with puts changing hands at five times the expected intraday rate. More than half of the action is the result of a 10,000-contract block trade at the October 85 put. The August 100 put has also seen unusual activity today. 

    Of course, it's been call buying that's dominated MON's options arena amid the ongoing takeover speculation. Data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) shows call buying has more than tripled put buying during the past ten weeks. Plus, MON's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) comes in at 0.31. Not only does this reading show call open interest outweighs put open interest by a three-to-one ratio, but it also sits in the heavily call-skewed 7th annual percentile. 

    As it currently stands, the analyst crowd is broadly optimistic toward Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON). Seven brokerage firms have "strong buy" ratings on the shares, while five others say its a "hold," and not one recommends selling. Moreover, the stock's consensus 12-month price target comes in at $112.71 -- just shy of annual-high territory for the stock. 

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