Biotech Buyout Fuels Unusual Options Activity on Allergan plc Ordinary Shares (AGN)

Allergan plc Ordinary Shares (NYSE:AGN) is buying Tobira Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:TBRA) for roughly $1.7 billion, and the M&A news has fueled a rare appetite for AGN's put options

by Celeste Taylor

Published on Sep 20, 2016 at 12:32 PM

Allergan plc Ordinary Shares (NYSE:AGN) is once again making M&A headlines, with the biotech announcing it will buy Tobira Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:TBRA) for roughly to $1.7 billion -- sending TBRA shares up a whopping 700%. TBRA is currently developing two drugs focused on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH disease), and other biotechs specializing in NASH disease treatments, such as Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:ICPT), are also enjoying a sector tailwind. But while the small-cap drugmakers are higher, AGN is taking a hit, and options traders are showing a relatively rare affinity for bearish bets on the stock.

AGN is down 2.6% at $239.02. While the biotech is well off its two-year lows tagged in early May, it's struggled to fill its early April bear gap -- triggered by scrapped plans to merge with Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) -- with rebound attempts capped by its 160-day moving average. 

AGN 092016


In this context, it makes sense that in the option pits, puts are crossing the line at twice their average intraday clip, with the weekly 9/23 245-strike put among today's most active options. Longer term, however, the trend has been towards calls. The November 260 call is AGN's top open interest position, with confirmed buy-to-open activity of late.  

AGN's 20-day call/put volume ratio at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) indicates that 1.56 calls have been bought to open for every put over the last 20 sessions. To further support this call bias, AGN's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.54 sits lower than 81% of all other readings from the past year, indicating a bigger-than-usual preference for calls over puts among near-term traders. 

However, it's worth noting that short interest on Allergan plc Ordinary Shares (NYSE:AGN) shot nearly 25% higher during the past two reporting periods. As such, the recent appetite for long calls -- particularly at out-of-the-money strikes -- could be attributable to shorts seeking an options hedge. Whatever the motive, now seems to be the time to buy short-term options, with AGN's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 23% sitting lower than 94% of all other readings from the past 12 months, indicating near-term traders are pricing in relatively muted volatility expectations.

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