NEW YORK/CHICAGO Research in Motion shares could be in for another wild ride after the company reports earnings later on Thursday, but some options traders were hedging against more losses in the beaten-down stock.
The bearish sentiment comes on the heels of a 12.4 percent decline in RIM shares in June and a 50 percent slide since the 52-week high on Feb 18. Expectations are for a move of about 9 percent in either direction after the bell.
The Canadian firm, once a leader in the smartphone market, may struggle to give investors good news from the earnings announcement due after the bell on Thursday. But the market has some hopes that shares might get a boost on details on when its new BlackBerry devices will be available.
The at-the-money June $35 straddle was priced at between $3.25 and $3.30, suggesting a move in the stock of more than 9 percent in either direction post-earnings, according to Mark Sebastian, chief operating officer of options education firm optionpit.com in Chicago.
But a number of options analysts noted buying of put options -- a bet on a stock decline -- in the stock.
"Traders appear to be buying some puts notably in the June $32.5 strike on Thursday," said Brian Overby, senior options analyst at online brokerage TradeKing in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"The fact that they are buying these puts with one day of life left (to June options expiration) appears to be speculative bets that RIM shares will decline post earnings."
So far, 19,016 contracts traded in the June $32.50 strike put by late afternoon, against previous open interest of 19,637 contracts.
A 9 percent move down for the stock, now at $35.27, would be around $32 and a move up would be around $38.
The 30-day implied volatility for RIM options stood at 64.02 percent, its highest level in almost two years, Sebastian said, suggesting wild gyrations in the stock after earnings.
Implied volatility, a key component of an options price, measures the expected magnitude of share movement.
Long straddle plays involves the purchase of a put and call with the same strike price and maturity date and are frequently used as bets on volatility.
VOLATILITY SUBSEQUENT TO EARNINGS
RIM's BlackBerry smartphone lineup has steadily lost market share, especially in the hyper-competitive U.S. market, to devices such as Apple Inc's iPhone and those running Google Inc's Android software.
In April, RIM warned that lackluster smartphone sales in the United States and Latin America would likely mean lower earnings than in the previous four quarters, but some investors are betting on RIM's new products to put the company back in the race.
"Premiums are almost identical at the near-the-money strike $35 options so it's hard to say definitively that options players are biased in either direction," said Gareth Feighery, a founder of Philadelphia-based options education firm MarketTamer.com.
"Instead they're simply hedging and expecting substantial volatility subsequent to the earnings, which may be catalyzed by sales reports of its relatively new PlayBook tablet."
RIM shares fell to its lowest level since October 2006 on Wednesday on the Nasdaq. The shares were up 0.2 percent at $34.66 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but have lost 40 percent of its value so far this year.
The toll taken on the stock price puts it far below its intrinsic value as calculated by Thomson Reuters StarMine. Assuming a cumulative annual growth rate of about 5.8 percent over the next 10 years, StarMine puts the intrinsic value of the stock at $79.66 a share, double its current value.
(Reporting by Angela Moon in New York and Doris Frankel in Chicago, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)