Another day, another belly-flop at Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) .
Shares of the satellite-radio company fell 5% at this morning's open and traded as much as 12% lower during the day. Skepticism is mounting over the company's ability to stay afloat, even after the successful merger of Sirius and XM.
Unless the tide turns in the market's waning minutes, this will be the fourth consecutive day of sharp losses for Sirius XM investors.
Radio isn't a very glamorous business these days, but did anyone expect Sirius to join its overseas peer WorldSpace (Nasdaq: WRSP ) -- and even struggling terrestrial-radio specialists such as Citadel (NYSE: CDL ) and Westwood One (NYSE: WON ) -- in trading for pocket change?
It's bad news when a money market fund breaks the buck, but what do you do when Sirius XM Radio is falling through?
Let's scare Sirius investors to death
Cheaper than a lottery ticket but just as feast-or-famine, Sirius XM will either make its freshest investors ridiculously wealthy or excruciatingly poor.
The problem for those who prefer to have more money than less is that a freefalling share price can turn into a self-fulfilling death prophecy. If a stock tanks, not only does retaining desirable employees and attracting on-air talent become all the harder, but creditors and investors start getting nervous, too.
The timing couldn't be any more problematic for Sirius XM as it bumps up against three key tollbooths next year:
- In February, a $300 million Sirius convertible is due.
- In May, $350 million in XM bank debt must be repaid.
- In December, a $400 million XM convertible is due.
Refinancing is easier said than done these days, even for healthy companies. With a sub-$1.00 share price, the market isn't going to warm up to a secondary offering. What started earlier this week simply as a slower growth outlook has snowballed into a situation where folks are bunching up at the exits.
First aid is not the last resort
If CEO Mel Karmazin has any rabbits he can pull out of his hat, now would be the time. Telling investors that the company will generate $300 million more in revenue next year than it expects to incur in cash operating expenses sure didn't do the trick.
It's also not much of a consolation to point out that Sirius XM, with its 18.6 million users, is second only to the 24.6 million Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) subscribers in terms of stateside media subscriptions.
Of course, today's Wall Street dud can be tomorrow's darling in a world that loves story stocks with happy endings. Karmazin simply needs to hitch his wagon to better stories. Something as simple as an iPhone app -- which is just about the only thing on Tim Beyers' wish list that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) didn't grant this week -- would go a long way toward consoling those who have lost faith.
Yes, there are already ways for Sirius and XM subscribers to play select streams through their iPhones and Wi-Fi-tethered iPod Touch devices, but the process is cumbersome. An official solution would not only tie Sirius XM to the hot App Store, but it would also be likely to result in revenue-sharing streams on iTunes purchases.
If that didn't do the trick, then Sirius XM would need to establish more talent syndication deals, in which it gets paid to provide content for other broadcasters. That's not an ideal solution, because it devalues the Sirius XM product to have it available elsewhere. However, it would lock in a steady trickle of revenue that would help persuade creditors to stick around next year.
In short, Sirius XM needs to get the market excited again as if its life depends on it. Because, quite frankly, it does at this point.
More news than static on Sirius XM: