Uniti Group Options Fly Off the Shelves After Windstream Ruling

UNIT stock is pacing for its worst day ever

Feb 19, 2019 at 2:30 PM
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Uniti Group Inc (NASDAQ:UNIT) is the worst stock on the Nasdaq this afternoon, as analysts slam the real estate investment trust (REIT) after a court ruling. Specifically, UNIT stock is down 40.4% at $11.90 -- and earlier touched a new record low of $10.71 --  following what the firm said is an "unfavorable court ruling" against Windstream (WIN), "Uniti's largest customer." Against this backdrop, UNIT options volume have hit a new annual high today.

Cowen downgraded UNIT to "market perform" from "outperform," and nearly halved its price target to $13 from $25. Likewise, J.P. Morgan Securities cut its rating to "underweight" from "neutral," and sliced its price target to $16 from $23, while Raymond James downgraded UNIT to "market perform" from "strong buy."

It's safe to say Uniti Group shares are pacing for their worst day ever. Prior to today, the stock had been in a channel of lower highs since its mid-June peak of $23.42. Today, though, the equity has sliced right through former support in the $14-$15 area, which contained UNIT's pullbacks in late 2017 and early 2018, and again in December.

UNIT stock chart feb 19

UNIT is on the short-sale restricted list today, yet several shorts are likely cheering the stock's fall. Although short interest dropped 12.8% in the most recent reporting period, these bearish bets still account for a healthy 8% of the equity's total available float.

As alluded to earlier, Uniti Group is seeing unusual options volume in the wake of today's bear gap. About 31,000 calls and 17,000 puts have changed hands so far today -- 15 times the average afternoon volume, and a fresh annual high.

It appears short-term bears are betting on more downside by buying to open the March 12.50 put, which is among the most active options today. By doing so, the traders expect UNIT to extend its journey below $12.50 through the next few weeks. Meanwhile, bullish holdouts are apparently buying to open the May 15 call, amid hopes for a rebound above $15 by May options expiration.

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