Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) was down big on Thursday after its earnings report. When you consider how small the company is in the grand scheme of things, and when you consider the BofA Merrill Lynch downgrade to Underperform, the reality is that Tesla actually held up better than it could have. What is interesting is that there was a huge bet that Tesla could see its shares cut in half over the next two years.
Options volume can be tricky in many cases. The farther out the expiration date, the higher the premiums generally become. So what if you saw that a bet was made that Tesla’s stock would fall to less than $20, or even to $18, with a time frame of two years?
A whopping 17,742 options contracts traded out in the January 2015 $18 put options. The premium paid was under $3.00 per contract, but investors need to know that the open interest before this was only a few hundred contracts. This was also the largest stock options single strike price trade seen in every single strike price and in every single expiration month up until then.
As far as what this means on a fully leveraged basis, it is huge. A move of more than 17,000 options contracts is a bet of 1.7 million shares on a fully leveraged basis (one contract equals 100 shares). Tesla traded just over 9 million shares on Thursday when shares fell to $35.16 from $38.54, and that appears to be the single largest stock volume trading day in the stock since March of 2011. Yahoo! Finance shows that the average daily stock volume is only 1.445 million shares. Tesla sometimes does not even trade 1 million shares in a day.
This was a serious bet, and with this being so far out of the money, it was unlikely that this was a hedging trade of sorts. At $35.16, Tesla’s 52-week range is $25.52 to $40.00 and its market cap is some $4 billion.