ACADIA Pharma Takeover Chatter Sparks Option Buying

ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:ACAD) options are flying off the shelves amid unconfirmed takeover chatter involving Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB)

Oct 21, 2016 at 2:56 PM
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M&A rumors are flying today, and ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:ACAD) is the latest target of merger speculation, with renewed chatter that fellow biotech Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) is mulling a bid (subscription required). Though the buyout speculation is unsubstantiated, the buzz is pushing ACAD higher, and option players are getting in on the action.

So far today, ACAD is up 5.2% at $25.19, and on pace to topple its 10-day moving average for the first time since late September. Today's rally is a welcome change of pace for the biotech. In October alone, ACAD is down 21%, and the stock has dropped 42% since its June peak, recently breaching a level of support in the $30 region.

In the option pits, ACAD contracts are crossing the line at three times their usual intraday volume, with calls outnumbering puts more than 2-to-1. As a result, option volume is set to hit the 97th percentile of its annual range. Today's most active option is the December 31 call, thanks to a sweep of 2,000 contracts bought to open, asked at $2, for a total investment of $400,000 (2,000 contracts * 100 shares * $2 each). This buyer will profit if ACAD makes a move north of $33 (strike plus premium paid) by the time of expiration, but if the stock fails to live up to expectations, the most she stands to lose is the initial premium paid.

Widening the scope, a preference for calls is nothing new for ACAD option players. ACAD's 50-day call/put volume ratio at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) shows nearly five calls bought to open for every put over the last 50 sessions. Echoing this is ACAD's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.36, which is in the bottom 8% of its annual range, displaying a larger-than-usual preference for calls over puts for near-term option traders. Drilling down, ACAD's top front-month open interest position is the out-of-the-money October 34 call, which expires at market close today, followed by the soon-to-be front-month November 40 call.

Of course, some of this call buying  -- particularly at out-of-the-money strikes -- could be attributed to short sellers hedging. Short interest is up 2.8% over the last reporting period, and now accounts for over 21% of ACAD's float. At ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s (NASDAQ:ACAD) average daily rate of trading, it would take nearly eight days to cover all of ACAD's shorted shares.

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