Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA) Call Options Fly on Sky Buyout Bid

Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA) call options are changing hands at 16 times the expected intraday clip

Dec 9, 2016 at 2:30 PM
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Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's (NASDAQ:FOXA) options pits are boiling over, after the media firm announced its $14.1 billion offer to buy the outstanding shares of British TV titan Sky Plc -- of which it already owns a 39.1% stake. At last check, 18,000 calls are on the tape -- 16 times the usual intraday rate, and good for the 99th annual percentile.

Digging deeper, the January 2017 30 strike is the most popular option by a mile, accounting for roughly two-thirds of FOXA's call volume. Several sizable blocks were seemingly bought to open, echoed by data at the International Securities Exchange (ISE). The goal for buyers is to see the stock muscle atop the round $30 level by the close on Friday, Jan. 20, when back-month options expire.

Today's trend toward calls over puts represents quite the change of pace. Over the last 10 days at the ISE, Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), FOXA has amassed a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 8.25 -- with bearish bets outstripping bullish by a more than 8-to-1 margin. What's more, this ratio ranks in the high 92nd percentile of its annual range. Underscoring the prevailing put-skew is FOXA's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.99, which is higher than 83% of comparable readings recorded in the prior 12 months.

Bearish bettors are likely celebrating what's happened to the stock today. After jumping out to an early lead on the Sky bid, FOXA has done an about-face, and now sits 2.5% lower at $27.91. In fact, the shares are clinging to a narrow 2.8% year-to-date lead.

As far as the aforementioned call buyers go, today's reversal likely represents a setback. It's also worth noting that Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOXA) hasn't closed a session above $30 since early May. Fortunately, the most "vanilla" call buyers stand to lose if the January 30 strike expires out of the money is the initial premium paid. And, based on the stock's Schaeffer's Volatility Index (SVI) of 22% -- which ranks in the low 9th annual percentile -- premium on short-term FOXA options appears to be relatively modest.

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