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Activision Blizzard Too Pricey, Volatile? Try A ‘Poor Person’s Covered Call'

By (Tezcan Gecgil/ )Stock MarketsAug 18, 2021 13:41
Activision Blizzard Too Pricey, Volatile? Try A ‘Poor Person’s Covered Call'
By (Tezcan Gecgil/ )   |  Aug 18, 2021 13:41
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Video game publisher Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) released second quarter figures on Aug. 3. Since then, ATVI stock has been volatile. The shares are currently trading around $83.63, down about 10% year-to-date. Over the past 52 weeks, ATVI stock is relatively flat, only up 1%.

By comparison the VanEck Vectors Video Gaming and eSports ETF (NYSE:ESPO) is down 6% YTD, but up close to 10% over the past year. The 52-week range for ATVI stock has been $71.19–$104.53; the shares hit a record high in mid-February.

Activision Blizzard Weekly Chart.
Activision Blizzard Weekly Chart.

Activision Blizzard’s market capitalization stands at $65 billion. By comparison, market caps of several competitors in the digital entertainment space are:

  • Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) - around $40 billion;
  • Gravity (NASDAQ:GRVY) (NASDAQ:GRVY) - $612 million;
  • Nintendo (OTC:NTDOY)) - $56 billion;
  • Take-Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ:TTWO) - around $40 billion;
  • Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) - $19 billion.

As the market caps show, Activision Blizzard is currently the world's largest video game publisher. Its impressive franchise portfolio includes Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Diablo, Overwatch, Pet Rescue and World of Warcraft.

The company’s Q2 results were robust. GAAP revenue came in at $2.29 billion, up 19% year-over-year. GAAP earnings per share were $1.12. A year ago they had been 75 cents a share. Management also raised the full-year outlook. ATVI stock is currently trading at 24.33 times its consensus forward P/E and 7.34 times sales.

Despite the strong metrics, recent headlines have not been just about the quarterly performance but also about legal troubles. In July, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a civil suit against the entertainment group. Wall Street now debates whether the lawsuit, which “alleges violations of the Equal Pay Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act,” could pressure ATVI stock further.

Next Move In ATVI Stock?

Among 31 analysts polled via, Activision Blizzard shares have an outperform” rating, with an average 12-month price target of $116.90. Such a move would imply an increase of about 40% from the current level. The target range is between $100 and $154.

Consensus Estimates.
Consensus Estimates.


In other words, despite the lawsuit, Wall Street is optimistic for the next move in ATVI stock. However, in the short run the stock could still be choppy.

Therefore, a number of investors might consider buying the stock for their long-term portfolios. But investing in 100 shares of Activision Blizzard stock would cost around $8,363 now, a considerable investment for most people.

Meanwhile, others could still be nervous about how far the stock could potentially fall before making a new bull leg up. Therefore, some investors might prefer to put together a "poor person's covered call" on the stock instead.

So today we introduce a diagonal debit spread on ATVI by using LEAPS options, where both the profit potential and risk are limited. Such a strategy could be used to replicate a covered call position at a considerably lower cost.

Investors who are new to options might want to revisit our previous articles on LEAPS options (for example, here and here) first, before reading further.

Diagonal Debit Spread On ATVI Stock

Current Price: $83.63

A trader first buys a longer-term” call with a lower strike price. At the same time, the trader sells a shorter-term” call with a higher strike price, creating a long diagonal spread.

Thus, the call options for the underlying stock have different strikes and different expiration dates. The trader goes long one option and shorts the other to make a diagonal spread.

In this strategy, both the profit potential and risk are limited. The trader establishes the position for a net debit (or cost). The net debit represents the maximum loss.

Most traders entering such a strategy would be mildly bullish on the underlying security. Instead of buying 100 shares of ATVI, the trader would buy a deep-in-the-money LEAPS call option, where that LEAPS call acts as a surrogate” for owning the stock.

For the first leg of this strategy, the trader might buy a deep in-the-money (ITM) LEAPS call, like the ATVI Jan. 20, 2023, 65-strike call option. This option is currently offered at $23.60. It would cost the trader $2,360 to own this call option that expires in close to one and a half years instead of $8,363 to buy the 100 shares outright.

The delta of this option is close to 80. Delta shows the amount an options price is expected to move based on a $1 change in the underlying security.

If ATVI stock goes up $1, to $84.63, the current option price of $23.60 would be expected to increase by approximately 80 cents, based on a delta of 80.

However, the actual change might be slightly more or less depending on several other factors that are beyond the scope of this article.

For the second leg of this strategy, the trader sells a slightly out-of-the-money (OTM) short-term call, like the ATVI Nov. 19, 2021, 85-strike call option. This options current premium is $4.68. The option seller would receive $468, excluding trading commissions.

There are two expiration dates in the strategy, making it quite difficult to give an exact formula for a break-even point in this trade. Different brokers might offer profit-and-loss calculators” for such a trade setup.

Calculating the value of the back-month option (i.e., LEAPS call) when the front-month (i.e., the shorter-dated) call option expires requires a pricing model to get a guesstimate” for a break-even point.

Maximum Profit Potential

The maximum potential is realized if the stock price is equal to the strike price of the short call on its expiration date. So the trader wants the ATVI stock price to remain as close to the strike price of the short option (i.e., $85 here) as possible at expiration (on Nov. 19, 2021), without going above it.

Here, the maximum return, in theory, would be about $538 at a price of $85 at expiry, excluding trading commissions and costs. (We arrived at this value using an options profit-and-loss calculator).

Without the use of such a calculator, we could also arrive at an approximate dollar value. Lets take a look:

The option seller (i.e., the trader) received $468 for the sold option. Meanwhile, the underlying ATVI stock increased from $83.63 to $85.00. This is a difference of $1.37 per share of ATVI, or $137 for 100 shares.

Because the delta of the long LEAPS option is taken as 80, the value of the long option will, in theory, increase by $137 X 0.8 = $109.60. However, in practice, it might be more or less than this value.

The total of $468 and $109.60 comes to $577.60. Although it is not the same as $538, we can regard it as an acceptable approximate value.

Understandably, if the strike price of our long option had been different (i.e., not $65.00), its delta would have been different, too. Then, we need to use that delta value to arrive at the approximate final profit or loss value.

Here, by not investing $8,363 initially in 100 shares of ATVI, the traders potential return is leveraged.

Ideally, the trader hopes the short call will expire out-of-the money (worthless). Then, the trader can sell one call after the other, until the long LEAPS call expires in about a year and half.

Activision Blizzard Too Pricey, Volatile? Try A ‘Poor Person’s Covered Call'

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Activision Blizzard Too Pricey, Volatile? Try A ‘Poor Person’s Covered Call'

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