Using Options to Play RIM's Struggles and Apple and Google's Supremacy

| About: BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY)

Seeking Alpha readers continue to ask me if Research in Motion (RIMM) remains a good short. After consulting several stock market apps on my new BlackBerry Curve, I say short-term neutral, mid- to long-term short. And, while you're at it, you might as well take a look at the two companies that are eating RIM's lunch.

First things first. RIM's management continues to turn in an abysmal non-performance. I've covered their ineptness for months. Fellow Seeking Alpha contributor Cameron Kaine made a strong point I had not considered in an article published Thursday morning:

Not only has RIM’s stock plummeted significantly this year, but the company continues to miss on its own dismal quarterly projections. It would seem to me that a smart management team should have decided to bite the bullet and cut projections to the degree to where the company would not only beat the street, but over-deliver. Instead, it has resorted to announcing further cuts within each announcement.

Clearly, the cluelessness rolls on and RIM's market share continues to plummet. At the moment, I think investors are waiting for the other shoe to drop. RIM will likely announce quarterly earnings come mid-September. At this time, clue radars will be on high alert. I don't expect good news for the quarter or the near-term outlook (just more of the same; see the excerpt from Kaine's article), nor do I expect anything tangible to support the notion that RIM will not go the way of Nortel Networks (OTC:NRTLQ) or the Winnipeg Jets (wait, they're back!). Look out Pink Sheets, here we come!

But seriously, folks. Short of a buy out, after a period of stagnation, things will continue to deteriorate. Using options, I would play this outlook not only with a trade on RIMM, but a trade on the broad sector.

In the near-term I expect RIMM to trade in a relatively boring range. I don't think it breaches $21 anytime soon, but it will have a difficult time moving much higher than $26-$27, regardless of what the market does.

You can profit from this game of wait and see with a bear call credit spread. For instance, sell the RIMM Sept $26 call for roughly $1.24 and buy the RIMM Sept $31 for about $0.30. You keep the credit of $0.94 from this example and you only need account equity equal to the difference between the two strikes, much less than if you just sold one call outright.

You could also put on a calendar spread. Leg one buys into the belief that a near-term floor exists in RIMM shares. You can voice this opinion buy selling the RIMM Aug $22.50 put for roughly $0.62. Leg two reflects the mid/long-term bearish sentiment. You could buy the RIMM Jan 2012 $17.50 put for about $1.65. That's a net debit of $1.03 for the spread. At day's end, the near-term put purchase acts as a partial hedge on the further out short put.

If you strongly believe in RIM's continued misfortune, why stop there? My strategy of selling Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) $350 puts has worked incredibly well, as the stock has, indeed, led any glimpses of a market turnaround. The only negative to come out of this strategy so far is that by executing it alone, you would not have gone long AAPL missing about $20 worth of upside.

I would wait for a market pullback - or something that takes AAPL back into the $360s - and pull the trigger on some AAPL April 2012 calls. If the holiday season stinks, that's fine, because it will not stink for Apple (or (NASDAQ:AMZN)). A combo of ITM and OTM calls on these options appeals to me. For example, buying the AAPL April 2012 $350 and $395 calls locks you in long for a fraction of the cost.

Of course, loss of market share for RIM not only bodes well for Apple, it works wonders for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. While I am not quite as excited about Google's prospects as I am of Apple's, it's tough to resist GOOG calls with the stock trading almost $100 off its 52-week high. Remember what happened to GOOG calls last time the company slaughtered earnings estimates.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in AAPL over the next 72 hours.