Sirius: A Near-Term Struggle?

| About: Sirius XM (SIRI)

Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) shares were down sharply this morning after J.P. Morgan’s Barton Crockett picked up coverage of the company with a Neutral rating, warning that the shares face “a trifecta of macro, valuation and capital structure concerns that are likely to weight on the shares near term.”

Crockett notes that the firm is re-instating coverage of the company after dropping it 1.5 years ago; at the time they had SIRI rated Overweight.

Crockett says the company’s forecast for $400 million in merger synergies in 2009 is reasonable, and he concurs that SIRI can be free cash flow positive next year.

He also notes, though, that the company has $1.085 billion in debt coming due next year. “We expect the company to be able to refinance as the business should be stronger and credit markets hopefully no worse that recent days when XM refinanced $1.25 billion of debt for the merger,” he writes. Keep in mind what happened with the most recent convertible offering: the company loaned a large number of shares to underwriters of the deal for hedging purposes, and the flood of stock pressured the company’s share price.

Crockett also points out that “satellite radio is obviously discretionary, a clear headwind in a weakening economy.

Crockett, by the way, calculates the company’s fully diluted share count including in-the-money convertible debt, warrants and options at 3.042 billion, which puts the company’s market cap at $4.08 billion. He calculates the company’s cash position at just under $400 million, with debt including converts of $3.422 billion.

Crockett estimates that the company finished Q2 with 18.6 million subscribers; he forecasts an increase to 19.4 million at year end, growing to 21.9 million next year and 23.8 million in 2008. Crockett notes that this compares to the firm’s last published estimate of 25.5 million in 2009 and 29.2 million in 2010. “The lower than expected subscriber tallies suggest that satellite radio is resonating less with consumers than we had expected,” he writes, but adds that “we are assuming that post merger this reverses somewhat.”

Approaching close, SIRI shares were down 12 cents (8%) to $1.38.