An Update On Groupon, OpenTable And Internet 2.0 Hedging

by: David Pinsen

A tough week for Groupon and OpenTable

In a previous article on hedging leading Internet stocks ("Groupon, Grilled Cheese, and Internet Bubble 2.0"), we mentioned why OpenTable, Inc. (NASDAQ:OPEN) was considered a bellwether Internet stock by angel investor Howard Lindzon, and how doubts had grown about Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN), following the release of its S-1 statement. This week featured negative news for both companies.

A new competitor for OpenTable

Describing its dominance last year, Howard Linzon cited OpenTable's brand awareness by consumers and distribution network with restaurants, noting those took more than ten years to develop. Google, Inc. (GOOG) just skipped ten years by buying restaurant guide Zagat. News of Google's acquisition sent shares of OpenTable down 8.43% on Thursday.

More doubts about Groupon

On Bloomberg TV's technology business program Bloomberg West Wednesday, Internet strategist Rocky Agarwal (@rackeshlobster on Twitter) had some of the harshest words yet about Groupon's prospects. Bloomberg's Shawna Ohm tweeted his key quote:

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Hedging Costs Of Leading Internet Stocks

The table below shows the costs, as of Thursday's close, of hedging leading Internet stocks against greater-than-25% declines over the next several months, using optimal puts. The cost of hedging the PowerShares QQQ Trust ETF (QQQ) against the same decline is included as well, for comparison purposes. First, a reminder about what optimal puts means in this context, and a step by step example of finding optimal puts for one of the leading Internet stocks, listed below, Google, Inc.

About Optimal Puts

Optimal puts are the ones that will give you the level of protection you want at the lowest possible cost. As University of Maine finance professor Dr. Robert Strong, CFA, has noted, picking the most economical puts can be a complicated task. With Portfolio Armor (available on the web and as an Apple iOS app), you just enter the symbol of the stock or ETF you're looking to hedge, the number of shares you own, and the maximum decline you're willing to risk (your threshold). Then the app uses an algorithm developed by a finance Ph.D to sort through and analyze all of the available puts for your position, scanning for the optimal ones.

A Step By Step Example

Here is a step by step example of finding the optimal puts for Google, Inc.

Step 1: Enter a ticker symbol. In this case, we're using GOOG, so we've entered it in the "Ticker Symbol" field below:

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Step 2: Enter a number of shares. For simplicity's sake, we've entered 100 in the "shares owned" field below, but you could also enter an odd number, e.g., 731. In that case, Portfolio Armor would round down the number of shares of GOOG you entered to the nearest hundred (since one put option contract represents the right to sell one hundred shares of the underlying security), and then present you with seven of the put option contracts that would slightly over-hedge the 700 shares of GOOG they cover, so that the total value of the 731 shares of GOOG would be protected against a greater-than-20% decline.

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Step 3: Enter a decline threshold. You can enter any percentage you like for a threshold when using Portfolio Armor (the higher the percentage though, the greater the chance you will find optimal puts for your position). Most of the time, I use 20% thresholds when hedging, for reasons I've mentioned in previous posts, but since I've used 25% thresholds in my previous posts on hedging Internet stocks, I'm doing so here as well. So I've entered 25% in the Threshold field below.

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Step 4: Tap the "Done" button. A moment after tapping the blue button, you'd see the screen cap below, which shows the optimal put option contract to buy to hedge 100 shares of GOOG against a greater-than-25% drop between now and March 16, 2012. Two notes about these optimal put options and their cost:

  • To be conservative, Portfolio Armor calculated the cost based on the ask price of the optimal puts. In practice an investor can often purchase puts for a lower price, i.e., some price between the bid and the ask.
  • As volatility has climbed, so have hedging costs. The VIX S&P 500 volatility index closed at 34.32 on Thursday. On June 6, when the VIX was at 18.49, the cost of hedging GOOG against a greater-than-25% decline over the same length of time was only 1.19% of position value, as we noted in this article published the following day. As the screen shot below shows, on Thursday, the cost as a percentage of position was 2.88%.

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Why There Were No Optimal Puts for Pandora

In some cases, the cost of protection may be greater than the loss you are looking to hedge against. That was the case with Pandora Media, Inc. (NYSE:P). On Thursday, the cost of protecting against a greater-than-25% decline in it over the next several months was itself greater than 25%. Because of that, Portfolio Armor indicated that no optimal contracts were found for it.

Hedging costs as of Thursday's close



Cost of Protection (as % of position value)

LNKD LinkedIn 24.96%*
P Pandora Media, Inc. No Optimal Contracts





CRM 7.09%*
AKAM Akamai Technologies 6.99%*
JNPR Juniper Networks 10.5%***
OPEN OpenTable, Inc. 19.3%***
AAPL Apple, Inc. 3.62%***
GOOG Google, Inc. 2.88%**
MSFT Microsoft Corporation 3.39%***
QQQ PowerShares QQQ Trust 2.72%**

*Based on optimal puts expiring in February, 2012
**Based on optimal puts expiring in March, 2012
***Based on optimal puts expiring in April, 2012

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.