One trader’s plan to make $12.6 million by betting on Tesla

One trader may have devised a way to make millions of dollars in just a month by speculating on shares of Tesla.

On Thursday morning, while Tesla was trading around $204, one trader appeared to spend $1.3 million on a bet that the stock would rally 15 percent in a month's time. And while the risk is defined at the amount spent, the trader could score a windfall of $12.6 million should Tesla see a big rally in the month ahead.

Specifically, this trade is what options experts refer to as a "call spread," whereby one bullish option is purchased and another sold. The expiration date of the options (Oct. 21) and the price level of the higher-up call ($235) allow us to surmise the precise move this trader is playing for.

"It looks like a really smart way to play Tesla to the upside," commented Dennis Davitt, a portfolio manager at Harvest Volatility Management.

The high expectations for the stock, as well as the short time frame, makes this play "very optimistic," but with a potential profit of nearly 1,000 percent, "the payout is really good," Davitt said Thursday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."

It's been a tough year for Tesla shares, which are down nearly 14 percent in 2016 as concerns over Tesla's bid for SolarCity and missed delivery goals have hit the stock. Concerns about the company's autopilot feature have not helped either.

The analyst community, typically a bullish bunch, are none too optimistic on the stock. Much of the Street gives Tesla a hold rating, with the median target price $206.53, according to FactSet.

On Sept. 8, Cowen's Jeffrey Osborne initiated coverage of the stock with an underperform rating and a $160 target, explaining that the stock has "a material amount of execution risk over the next 12 to 18 months," making for an "asymmetric risk/reward profile for the stock at the market's current valuation."

2016 is set to go down as Tesla's first negative year as a public company.

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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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