The FCC has finally decided to put Liberty Media's (LMCA) application for de jure control of Sirius XM (SIRI) up for public notice. Many had considered that it was unusual for it to take this long. The application was filed back on August 17:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal regulators on Tuesday opened up a public comment period on an application by John Malone's Liberty Media Corp. to take control of satellite radio company Sirius XM Radio Inc.
The Federal Communications Commission said petitions to deny the application are due by Nov. 1. Responses to those filings are due two weeks later, with a final rebuttal to the responses by Nov. 20.
The Wall Street Journal is also reporting that the FCC has decided to waive the fact that Sirius Management did not sign the application. The stock has been jumping all day on news that media analyst Jessica Reif Cohen of Bank of America Merrill Lynch has initiated the satellite radio company with a Buy rating and a target price of $3.75. The stock hit a new 52 week high of $2.68 on the news. According to the report, Sirius is growing faster than any other media company, with EBITDA growth expected to average 20% and FCF 35% through 2016. And this free cash flow "will be returned to shareholders in concert with a healthy leverage ratio of 3-4x." Cohen now expects Sirius subscriptions to top 30 million by 2016. She has been with Bank of America Merrill Lynch since 1994. This is major news considering Cohen's knowlege and contacts in this business:
Cohen has had a front-row seat for a period of dramatic change among the companies she covers, broadly defined as the media universe. Originally focused primarily on broadcasters, over the years her coverage has expanded to include cable and satellite companies, digital media and related industries - not to mention all of the merger-and-acquisition activities of such big names as Comcast Corp., News Corp., Time Warner and Viacom. "She has great industry knowledge and wonderful contacts," one backer told Institutional Investor in 2000.
It is interesting that Karmazin just spoke at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference last month. And now he is scheduled to speak at the Liberty Media shareholders meeting October 10. Could there be an announcement? Considering that Sirius is in the middle of what many would call a "hostile takeover," and that Liberty is the one causing the hostility, it seems unusual Karmazin will speak there. What could this mean? To me there are only two possibilities. He is either going to say that he is going to stay or leave. Or he is going to say that the two companies have come to an agreement. Personally I think that it is both. He will stay, and they have come to an agreement.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is currently the top institutional owner of Liberty Media, according to the most recent reports. So through Liberty, Buffett does indirectly own a piece of Sirius. And yet he does not currently own shares of the company.
Top Institutional Holders
|Top Mutual Fund Holders|
|GROWTH FUND OF AMERICA INC||4,391,300||4.00||387,093,095||Mar 30, 2012|
|VANGUARD TOTAL STOCK MARKET INDEX FUND||1,324,710||1.21||116,773,186||Mar 30, 2012|
|BARON SMALL CAP FUND||1,250,000||1.14||109,887,500||Jun 29, 2012|
|Munder Mid-Cap Core Growth Fund||1,115,711||1.02||98,349,924||Mar 30, 2012|
|PRINCIPAL MID CAP BLEND FD||1,112,362||1.01||97,264,933||Apr 29, 2012|
|Legg Mason Clearbridge Aggressive Growth Fd||1,061,301||0.97||93,553,683||Mar 30, 2012|
|AMERICAN FDS INSURANCE SER-GROWTH FD||1,008,939||0.92||88,937,972||Mar 30, 2012|
|SMALLCAP WORLD FUND||938,912||0.86||82,765,092||Mar 30, 2012|
|VANGUARD EXTENDED MARKET INDEX FUND||917,371||0.84||80,866,253||Mar 30, 2012|
|FIDELITY CONTRAFUND INC||747,375||0.68||65,350,470||Apr 29, 2012|
But Buffett has financial ties to Bank of America (BAC), which owns Merrill Lynch. This then will give Bank of America shareholders ownership in Sirius. Here are the current major institutional owners of Sirius:
|Top Mutual Fund Holders|
|VANGUARD MID-CAP INDEX FUND||47,226,513||1.23||109,093,245||Mar 30, 2012|
|VANGUARD TOTAL STOCK MARKET INDEX FUND||45,790,471||1.19||105,775,988||Mar 30, 2012|
|Powershares Exhg Traded Fd Tr-Powershares QQQ Tr, Series 1||39,344,023||1.03||74,360,203||May 30, 2012|
|VANGUARD EXTENDED MARKET INDEX FUND||28,222,896||0.74||65,194,889||Mar 30, 2012|
|FIDELITY CONTRAFUND INC||16,056,018||0.42||36,286,600||Apr 29, 2012|
|VANGUARD GROWTH INDEX FUND||13,202,617||0.34||30,498,045||Mar 30, 2012|
|FIDELITY OTC PORTFOLIO||13,071,484||0.34||24,705,104||May 30, 2012|
|COLLEGE RETIREMENT EQUITIES FUND-STOCK ACCOUNT||12,394,006||0.32||28,630,153||Mar 30, 2012|
|HARTFORD GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES FUND||9,097,710||0.24||17,194,671||May 30, 2012|
|ISHARES RUSSELL 1000 GROWTH INDEX FD||8,876,824||0.23||16,777,197||May 30, 2012|
So now, a lot of the uncertainty about Sirius has been done away with. Considering that there will be thirty days for the public to voice their concerns, and that those should be minimal, there may be time to get a buyback done rather quickly. Obviously Ms. Cohen knew something from her sources when she gave the $3.75 target, because that is about what the price will be with a buyback. So if you missed the train when the price was ten cents a share several years ago, there is still time to make some serious cash!
Disclosure: I am long SIRI.