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Morning Update

Yesterday was a big day for RIM, who officially launched the BB10 and announced a name change from Research in Motion to BlackBerry (symbol BBRY). The change confirms what every analyst has been saying for months: the future of the company hinges on the success of this phone, to the point that naming the company after it seems appropriate. BlackBerry’s stock has seen a huge run-up ahead of the event, similar to what used to happen to Apple’s stock ahead of a major product launch. However, much like Apple, it was a “buy the rumor, sell the news” scenario. The stock was 24% off of its Jan. 246th intra-day high as of yesterday’s close, falling 12% yesterday alone. One option trader is betting that BlackBerry has already seen its 2013 high for the year by buying 5,000 January 2014 13 puts for $3.15 with the stock at 14.02. This is a bearish bet that BlackBerry will be below 9.85 (30% lower) one year from now.

The reason for this bearishness is relatively simple: while it seems to be a good product, the BB10 is very late to the game. The phone is likely to stop current BlackBerry users from switching to Android or Apple phones, but is unlikely to cause a significant number of Apple and Android customers to switch to BlackBerry.

With global smartphone market share in the low single digits BlackBerry has the odds stacked against them. The most likely outcome of this phone is that they keep that market share instead of losing further ground. Why? Because of the network effect. Developers who want to reach the masses will focus on developing apps for Android and iOS. Sure, BlackBerry already has 70K apps, which is a great start. But if developers do not continue to develop the same apps for BlackBerry as they do for iOS and Android consumers will continue their exodus.

If this scenario plays out BlackBerry’s stock could slide 30% over the coming year as the pre-launch exuberance fades in the stock. However, this is just on scenario and time will tell how well the BB10 sells. Buying puts is therefore the best way to get short exposure to the stock because it limits risk to the upside. However, with 30-day implied volatility currently at 90%, options on this stock are pricy. Traders are expecting the stock to be volatile going forward as the market sorts out the BB10’s future, which means that options near the money will require large moves in the stock to breakeven. For now I prefer to be on the sidelines and let the stock settle down before taking a stand.

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