3 Answers From Sirius XM Radio

Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) is doing just fine. Thanks for asking.

The satellite radio giant posted healthy financial results for its third quarter on Thursday morning.

Revenue climbed 14% to $867.4 million on the heels of strong subscriber growth and the continuing ascent of the average revenue that it generates per user. Analysts were only expecting $865.6 million on the top line.

Profitability fell from $0.02 a share to $0.01 a share, but there's a meaty asterisk there. Baked into that profit is a $107 million hit from the early extinguishment of debt. Add that back in -- and it's a somewhat seamless exercise given the billions in tax-loss carryforwards on Sirius XM's books -- and adjusted net income for the quarter clocks in at a better-than-expected $0.03 a share.

I had three questions heading into the report and this morning's subsequent conference call. Let's see how things stand now.

1. Who will take over for Mel?
It's now been a week since CEO Mel Karmazin announced his resignation from the company.

The longtime helmsman -- the mastermind behind the defining merger of Sirius and XM -- will leave the company come February.

With Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LMCA  ) closing in on majority control, it was easy to see Karmazin not wanting to work for somebody else. He's brilliant, but with an ego to match.

A real surprise in the call is that the matter was never addressed. Not once did Karmazin explain his departure. Playing along, not a single analyst asked about the matter. The name Liberty Media never came up. Karmazin's resignation or his potential replacements will have to be analyst chatter for another day.

It's just as well. Once Liberty Media is able to secure majority ownership in the company -- and it will -- it will be up to John Malone and Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei to carve out the future. Under the likely transition, it's also not a surprise to see Sirius XM silent when it comes to offering up guidance for 2013.

2. Is Sirius XM going to raise guidance again?
After announcing a better-than-expected subscriber count for the third quarter several weeks ago, it was easy to bank on the company firming up the rest of its guidance.

As I wrote over the weekend: "A pretty good bet is that it beefs up its revenue guidance on Tuesday. It would also be a welcome update if it juices up its forecast for adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow."

Well, it didn't happen. Sirius XM is merely reiterating its guidance that calls for revenue to "approach" $3.4 billion, adjusted EBITDA of $900 million, and free cash flow of $700 million.

Given the better-than-expected revenue and the encouraging trends, isn't it time to change "approaching" to "surpassing" on the top line? Given the improving margins, shouldn't adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow be bumped higher?

There was nothing problematic in the report outside of Sirius not increasing its outlook. The stock also opened higher on the report, so this is apparently not a very big deal.

3. Is Sirius XM's Pandora killer still launching this year?
Sirius XM knows that streaming matters, and apparently so does everybody else.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) introduced Xbox Music last month with a music discovery component to challenge market leader Pandora (NYSE: P  ) . Pandora's stock also took a hit on reports that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is in talks with record labels to break into this market.

Earlier this week Apple announced that it was delaying its iTunes 11 update until late November. Is waiting on the update simply buying Apple time to line up all of the licensing rights for its streaming service?

Sirius XM points out that it's still on track to add music discovery streaming by the end of the year. Even if Sirius XM will be facing a growing number of seasoned tech giants by the time that it does launch, it will still be a compelling offering to its receiver-based subscribers who wouldn't mind paying a few bucks more for commercial-free personalized radio.

Running of the bulls
With another solid quarter under Sirius' belt, and share buybacks likely in 2013, Karmazin appears to be ready to hand over the company in a few months while it's in its best shape ever.

I recently put out a premium report on Sirius XM Radio, detailing the challenges and opportunities that await investors whether they're long or short the dynamic media giant. A year of updates is also included with the report. Click here to check it out now.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Liberty Media. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2012, at 12:30 PM, JamesRobertDobbs wrote:

    SiriusXM's "Pandora Killer" is a satellite signal. Seriously, how can any Internet radio source possibly compete with SiriusXM's low cost and reliable signal? Is your data plan free?

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