The 3 Most Important Questions for Sirius XM
Aug 6th 2012 9:08PM
Updated Aug 6th 2012 9:16PM
It's almost show time for Sirius XM Radio (NAS: SIRI) .
The satellite radio provider reports its second quarter results tomorrow morning. Analysts see revenue climbing 12% to $834.4 million. They also see a profit of $0.02 a share. That's just shy of the $0.03 a share it posted a year earlier, but nearly half of that quarter's $173.3 million profit came from a one-time gain in investment income from cash it received by closing on the acquisition of its Canadian partner.
In other words, on an apples-to-apples basis, Sirius XM should be growing on both ends of the income statement.
I like to approach Sirius XM's quarterly reports with a few questions in mind. Let's go over what I would love to see answered this time around.
1. Is churn holding up?
One of the more welcome surprises during this year's first quarter was that Sirius XM's monthly churn rate held up at 1.9%.
The media giant rolled out a 12% rate increase in January. It will gradually roll out to existing subscribers, but more than a third of self-pay customers were already paying the new $14.49 a month rate by the end of the first quarter. Karmazin was originally targeting monthly churn for all of 2012, to clock in at a 2.1% clip, but he lowered it to Sirius XM's historical range of 1.8% to 2% three months ago.
Obviously, this isn't on the scale of last summer's Netflix (NAS: NFLX) pricing maneuver that raised prices by as much as 60%. The controversial strategy led to net defections and a cascading share price. Netflix even suspended its practice of making its churn rate public, a warning flag if there ever was one.
It's a different story at Sirius XM.
We already know that new customers aren't flinching at the new rate. Sirius XM has closed out the first half of the year with more than a million net subscribers added to its rolls. The challenge now is to retain accounts that have been paying less. Tomorrow we will find out if churn -- which is the percentage of subscribers that cancel the service in any given month -- can stick to that historical range.
2. Is there any visibility on the Liberty Media saga?
Things have been quiet since Liberty Media (NAS: LMCA) began increasing its 40% preferred share stake in Sirius XM to an effective 46.2% position in the company.
Liberty Media wants de facto control of the company. It would allow the media conglomerate to then spin off its meaty stake in Sirius XM to shareholders in a tax-advantaged transaction.
Sirius XM bulls that were hoping for an outright acquisition at a healthy premium may have been initially disappointed. A Liberty Media spinoff would flood Sirius XM's float. However, some analysts feel that Sirius XM will move toward aggressive share buybacks if things get to that point.
CEO Mel Karmazin has rightfully deflected questions about Liberty Media's intentions to Liberty Media itself, but it would be nice to have some clarity on the possible scenarios.
3. Is Sirius XM 2.0 gaining traction?
Last year's late retail rollout of Sirius XM 2.0 was supposed to be a game changer. A new wave of satellite receivers would be able to access roughly two dozen more channels, and Sirius XM would be able to beef up its online offerings to give a premium spin to the Internet radio providers.
Market leader Pandora (NYS: P) may not be making the kind of money that Sirius XM is raking in, but it's growing substantially faster.
Well, Chrysler will be rolling out Sirius XM 2.0 in some of its models starting this summer, and a Pandora-like customized online radio service -- sans commercials -- should help grow Sirius XM's non-receiver subscriber base.
If the company is making any headway in any of its Sirius XM 2.0 initiatives, Karmazin will likely be quick to let investors know.
Running of the bulls
I remain bullish on Sirius XM's future. It should come as no surprise that I'm promoting the CAPScall initiative for accountability by reiterating my bullish call on Sirius XM for Motley Fool CAPS.
I also just put out a premium report on Sirius XM Radio, detailing the challenges and opportunities that await investors who are both long and short the dynamic media giant. A year of updates is also included with the report. Check it out now.
The article The 3 Most Important Questions for Sirius XM originally appeared on Fool.com.The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Liberty Media and Netflix. Rick is also part of theRule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.
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