Merger Talk Pumps Oil Options Again

Plus, there's a new top dog at the Pacific Exchange.
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A worrisome market, a four-day trading week and some fundamental changes in the oil and gas sector lent more attention than usual -- or perhaps even warranted -- to takeover and merger rumors among oil, related-equipment and exploration stock options.

"There was some merger chatter surrounding

Schlumberger

(SLB) - Get Report

earlier this week, and then of course, the

Global Marine

(GLM)

-

Transocean Offshore

(RIG) - Get Report

rumors popped up Tuesday but were denied," said one Philadelphia-based options trader. "In particular, there were lots of August calls being sold in Schlumberger, with the remote possibility of a merger there and continued talk of consolidation in the industry."

The call-selling strategy would serve to profit if Schlumberger stayed flat or fell in the wake of the company acquiring a smaller player.

Halter Marine

(HLX) - Get Report

and

Friede Goldman International

(FGI)

signed a definitive agreement to merge in a stock swap announced Wednesday.

Among the most actively traded oil-equipment options,

R&B Falcon

(FLC) - Get Report

saw roughly 1,500 of its July 10 calls traded, up 1/8 ($12.50) to 11/16 ($68.75) against open interest of just 179 contracts. Shares of Falcon, which operates marine-based drilling rigs, were flat at 8 15/16.

Stalled oil prices and the need for more companies to issue or refinance corporate debt has flagged other names in the industry as hungry for a merger or takeover, including

Stone Energy

(SGY)

,

Ocean Energy

(OEI)

,

Barrett Resources

(BRR)

and

Newfield Exploration

(NFX)

.

Otherwise, "it's absolutely dead this week, with no one willing to put on any big positions until after Friday," said another trader on the Pacific Exchange.

The

Pacific Exchange

today named

Philip D. DeFeo

its chief executive officer and chairman of its executive committee.

DeFeo succeeds

Robert Greber

, who will remain chairman of the PCX board of governors.

DeFeo most recently was president and CEO of mutual fund company

Van Eck Associates Group

. He also worked at

Cedel International

, a major Eurobond clearance and custody services,

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

and

FMR

.

According to a release from the exchange, Greber informed the PCX board in January that he wanted to take his leave in 2000. "That meant we weren't simply looking for a new president," said David Hultman, vice chair of the PCX board and an equities specialist for

D.A. Davidson

, who chaired the search committee.