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Where Have All the Sirius XM Bears Gone?

By Rick Munarriz - Feb 15, 2018 at 2:03PM

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The satellite radio giant's stock is checking in with its lowest number of shares sold short in more than a year.

Real bears may hibernate in the winter, but the same thing appears to be happening to Sirius XM Holdings (SIRI -1.45%) bears. There were 216.1 million shares of the satellite radio provider sold short at the end of January, a large number but actually Sirius XM's lowest short interest in more than a year. 

Another model-affirming quarter at month's end and the consistently buoyant share price find naysayers closing more short positions than they're opening on the stock. There are still a lot of people betting against Sirius XM, but we're looking at a lot less pessimism than when there were more than 277 million shares sold short at last year's peak. 

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart at a Sirius XM Town Hall interview.

Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. Image source: Sirius XM Holdings.

There's nothing more disheartening to someone shorting a stock than it rising, especially since the downside for a short position is more than 100%. Sirius XM has done a good job of moving higher. You have to go all the way back to 2008 to find the last time that Sirius XM ended a year lower than where it was when it started. Sirius XM's blowout quarter found the stock closing above $6 that day, something that hasn't happened in nearly 12 years.

Sirius XM is one of the market's hottest stocks since bottoming out in early 2009. The media giant is a 120-bagger off of its all-time low. The annual gains in recent years have been more modest, but the consistent upticks can wear on a bear. 

Sirius XM is perhaps too boring to short. It packs a one-year beta of 0.82, implying that it's less volatile than the market. 

It's hard to justify a bearish position on Sirius XM these days. It is consistently profitable. Revenue keeps growing. You have to go back nearly a decade to find the last time that Sirius XM posted a sequential decline in total subscribers. Shorts may have a reasonable argument to make that the stock is overvalued based on conventional measuring sticks, but if the boo bird thesis is that the Sirius XM is fading into obsolescence, the numbers just don't back that negativity up. 

Sirius XM begins 2018 with a record 32.7 million subscribers. Revenue may be slowing -- up 8% in its latest quarter, with guidance suggesting 5% growth for all of 2018 -- but it's still moving in the right direction. Retention is holding within historical rates. Average revenue per user keeps coasting higher as drivers aren't flinching at higher monthly premiums. 

It's also fair to say that this is no longer a speculator's playground. Sirius XM may be a low-priced stock, but it's no longer a penny stock. It's a legitimate media behemoth with a unique product. No stock moves higher every year, but it's dangerous to bet against momentum until it finally starts to turn. Bears are clearing out of Sirius XM, and it's the right move in any season.

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