Comcastic Options Spike: Speculation or Dividend Capture? (CMCSA, CMCSK)

Posted in Options 
July 7th, 2008

Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) (NASDAQ: CMCSK) has been seeing some rather unusual options activity.  Based upon a snapshot we took of the Comcast options activity at 11:40 AM EST, you can tell that either a specific dividend trade is being made or that speculators are active in the stock’s long-term recovery.  It could even be both simultaneously on the same day.

If you have been following after-hours trading volume over the last few weeks one company whose shares keep turning up in activity (but not in price change) in after-hours trading it is Comcast.  We have been under the impression that all such recent after-hours trading was more tied to late-day or end-of-day trading settlements rather than real block volume trading.  But the options activity in Comcast today stand out as an obvious longer-term speculation that a bottom has been seen.  As a reminder, when you see options trade like this it also means someone else was willing to make the opposite bet.

But in the “CMCSK” specific shares we have seen in the JAN09 $22.50 CALLS some 27,416 contracts trade hands, while the prior open interest was listed as 46,150 contracts.  Also in the “CMCSK” specific shares, we have seen options trade in AUG08 $17.50 CALLS to the tune of 10,051 contracts against a prior open interest of 8,679 contracts.

In the “CMCSA” specific shares we have seen some 8,030 contracts in the JAN09 $20.00 CALLS trade against a 22,517 prior open interest.  We’ve also seen in the “CMCSA” specific shares some 5,185 contracts trade in the JAN09 $22.50 CALLS, and its open interest before today had been 21,971 contracts.

There even som smaller transactions in the CMCSA specific contracts for the JUL08 $10.00 CALLS (1,504 contracts vs. 10 contracts in open interest) and in the JUL08 $12.50 CALLS (with 6,004 contracts vs. 10 contracts in open interst).  There would normally be a big stink here until you peel back the data one step further.  Today marks ex-dividend date and these very well may be nothing short of mere dividend captures that are offsetting other trades in various Put and Call strikes at various expirations.  With a 1.4% yield you’d think the rewards are too small after fees and commissions, but many can get those costs next to nothing and at the end of the day money is money.

Jon Ogg
July 7, 2008

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