Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI) investors have a lot to celebrate this year. Starting the year off at $1.84, shares have increased by $0.96 to date, or over 52%. For comparison, Wall Street's tech darling Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has increased 55%. While most of the news and focus is on Apple, Sirius XM has nearly matched these gains.
With Apple in a downturn which could bring shares to $600 or less before finding support, and Sirius XM in a bull run with little known about resistance levels above, something interesting may happen. Sirius XM investors may be able to wave through the glass elevator to Apple investors as they pass each other in opposite directions.
That's pretty remarkable for a company and a stock which has been the target of bearish opinion after bearish opinion for what seems like forever. At times the stock, and investors have seemed to be under attack from all sides from individuals who have become rather famous in the Sirius XM investor community.
Consider the following quotes taken from some of the more prolific Sirius XM bears, and the share price at the time. Compare the current share price of $2.80 and the timeframe and be glad you didn't listen to them :
"I am convinced that the most ardent SIRI longs hate themselves. They will not recognize the reality of the market and sectors Sirius XM runs in until SIRI is a penny stock again."
"Despite the almost-obvious reality that Karmazin is playing chicken with their money by not simply ceding control to Liberty, tortured SIRI shareholders not only stay long, they continue to pump the stock. As this thing dumps to below a dollar -- and Mel goes out in a blaze of incompetence -- SIRI must remain number one on any list of sucker stocks to sell immediately. " - Rocco Pendola 6/26/2012 $1.84
"I guess I just hate this stock."
"Waiting for this stock to appreciate will be like waiting for the Carpathia."
"Let me be blunt. Sirius XM stock is dead money right now. I believe it is perhaps the worst purchase an investor can make." -Regarded Solutions 6/10/2012 $1.86
"$2.15 is the new cap."
"Since the July 1, the stock has climbed as high as 20%, reaching $2.20 on two separate occasions. It is clear that the stock has already rallied on this news and that the only possible direction it can go upon the announcement is down, creating a "sell-the-news" type of a situation. With no clear catalyst remaining, I would not want to be a holder of Sirius" -Richard Saintvilus 8/6/2012 $2.20
The fact of the matter is that the bears just don't "get it." Much like Pendola states above, saying he's convinced the most ardent SIRI longs "hate themselves" I have to wonder right now if the most ardent SIRI bears hate themselves for getting it so terribly wrong.
It begs the question really, "how" did they get this so wrong? To me, it's quite simple. Most who have read what I write understand one thing. I'm a Sirius XM bull. Although I may trade the stock a bit here and there and yes I did have a missed call earlier this year when my expectations were not met, I have never wavered from one thing. Sirius XM has been and will continue to be an excellent long term investment and should reward shareholders quite nicely year over year.
Why? With share buybacks on the horizon once Liberty Media (NASDAQ:LMCA) moves to control of the company and participates in a buyback plan which will keep its stake at a controlling 50% or more. This could add billions to buying pressure, and remove a considerable number of shares from the float. While this would, in turn, increase Sirius XM's debt levels, current and projected free cash flow should be able to cover the increased expense. This would be at borrowing rates which are much lower than four years ago when Sirius XM was subject to crushing interest rates. Will Liberty over leverage? Unlikely. Why would it over leverage and jeopardize Sirius XM, when it will own over half of the company? What's good for Sirius XM is good for Liberty. Investors should understand that.
This is on top of a company performing like a well oiled machine, pulling in record numbers of new subscribers, meeting and beating guidance estimates, and as Mel Karmazin says "running on all cylinders."
So moving forward, what positives are in the pipes?
Sirius XM's Q3 conference call and likely release of 2013 guidance is due on October 30th. It's only two weeks away. Q3 net sub additions have already come in and been released early, and beat expectations by nearly 100,000 subscribers, forcing Mel Karmazin to increase guidance to 1.8 million net subscribers for the year.
There are those who will argue that now that these numbers are known, Sirius XM will see a sell off after the conference call. Investors have heard this before. Reference Richard Saintvilus' quote above, and note that the stock actually skyrocketed immediately after the call, completely contrary to this bearish expectation. My personal feeling is that Sirius XM still has upside left in it, and that $2.80 is not the top. Bank of America analyst Jessica Reif Cohen seems to agree, with her $4 target.
For the Q3 call investors need to pay attention to other not yet released figures. Investors especially want to pay attention to ARPU (Average revenue per user), make sure churn is stable at 1.9% or lower, and look at SAC (subscriber acquisition costs). I tend to approach this in more of a K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) way, and simply compare these numbers to the previous few quarters leading back to Q3 of last year. The same or better? Thumbs up from me.
If you wish to get more in depth on numbers fellow authors Crunching Numbers and Spencer Osborne tend to dig down much deeper than I and it would pay to tune in to their articles as well. Keep in mind there is a difference between these two authors and their cautious approach, and the outright bearishness of the individuals quoted above. Cautious is prudent, "permabear" is foolish.
It is also expected that Mel Karmazin may have some news regarding his contract and whether or not he will be leaving at the end of the year. The jury is out on this one as to whether or not investors was Mel to stay or go. It will be interesting to see the reaction, whatever the news is.
The most important part, and what I like to remind investors, is that no matter which way the wind blows on any given day the underlying bullish case for Sirius XM remains intact as it has for a long time now. If and when the company itself takes a downturn, or if the macro situation turns incredibly sour, then it may be time to sell the stock. Until that point, investors should do quite well buying and holding as they have for years now.
Disclosure: I am long SIRI. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: I may trade portions of my SIRI position on an intra day basis as I see opportunity.