Options Traders React to Intelsat's Rotten Week

The FCC opting for a public auction has weighed on Intelsat stock

by Patrick Martin

Published on Nov 15, 2019 at 11:30 AM
Updated on Nov 20, 2019 at 10:11 AM

It's been a week to forget for Intelsat SA (NYSE:I). The communications satellite services provider is cruising toward a 45.3% weekly loss -- set to be its worst week ever -- after rumors swirled that the Federal Communications Commission may opt for a public C-Band auction. The reports were enough for J.P. Morgan Securities to issue a downgrade to "neutral" from "overweight" and trim its December 2020 price target to $22. Amidst this slide, bearish betting has been popular all over the place. 

Today, options are hot, with 28,000 contracts hands, triple the average intraday amount and volume pacing for the 99th percentile of its annual range. Leading the charge today is the March 30 call though, where 10,130 contracts have traded. 

Longer term, the mood in the options pits heavily favors puts. Data at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Cboe Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) shows Intelsat stock's 50-day put/call volume ratio of 1.23, which ranks in the 86th percentile of its annual range. Options overall have been popular, with total open interest of 517,892 ranking in the 100th annual percentile.

Those wanting to buy options to bet on I's short-term trajectory will have to pay up, though. The security's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility (IV) checks in at 159.3%, in the 99th annual percentile, meaning near-term options are pricing in higher-than-normal volatility expectations.

Intelsat's rotten week comes even amid an 8.7% rally today, putting the stock at $13.18 at last check and set to snap a five-day skid. And although the equity is on the short-sale restricted list today, a healthy 18% of I's total available float is sold short, or 8.4 times the average daily trading volume. 

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