If you're wondering where the rewards are in aiming to provide balanced analysis on Sirius XM Radio
It cuts both ways, though it's usually the bullish camp wondering why I'm bashing the satellite-radio giant, even when it's a mostly positive appraisal.
Let's make one thing clear: A reader will get nothing out of an article that is 100% bullish -- or 100% bearish on any public company. There are two sides to every story stock. The "show me" nature of analysis ultimately forces a financial analyst to go out on a limb and pick a side, but it's important to tap into what the other camp is thinking.
Even in our newsletters, where we provide detailed breakdowns of our most feverish bullish pitches, there is room reserved to pick out the pitfalls, shortcomings, and reasons to bail.
The inner cynic in me will scoff at anything that I read that is completely one-sided. The scoffing intensifies when it's someone claiming that the opposing camp is biased, only to counter with an even more biased argument.
Into the waves
Satwaves founder Brandon Matthews wrote an intriguing blog entry this week. Outside of Orbitcast, Matthews' site provides some of the most thorough coverage of the nascent satellite-radio industry.
Unfortunately, Matthews also lets his passion for the platform get the better of him sometimes.
"On any given day, there are dozens of professional stock bashers trolling the stock message boards and posting erroneous information on Sirius XM Radio," he begins.
Fair enough. He's going to roll up his sleeves and let the satellite-radio bears have it. He may have his biases, but if he's going to debunk myths by drowning out "erroneous information" with facts and logical assumptions, I'm all for it.
Well, it's a mixed showing on that front.
Sirius XM closed out the second quarter with $2.8 billion of long-term debt on its books, which puffs out a bit more when you tack on current debt maturities and related-party debt. Matthews offers up several media companies -- Comcast
How is that supposed to argue that Sirius XM's debt is not excessive? Those companies are much larger. They are also all profitable, which means that they are making more than enough to cover their debt interest and still close out in the black. Sirius XM is taking some serious strides in that direction, but it's not there yet.
If the shares aren't in, then they must be outstanding
Matthews then goes on to tackle the knock that Sirius XM has too many shares outstanding. I agree with him that 3.9 billion shares outstanding is just a number, but this is usually brought up as a caveat to neophyte investors who see the penny stock share price and assume that Sirius XM is the market's red-headed stepchild when it comes to valuation.
It's not. Sirius XM commands a $2.4 billion market cap, and that's before we consider the full impact of Liberty's
The shares outstanding aren't an issue, but don't let the pocket-change price kid you into thinking that it wouldn't take well over $5 billion to snap up the entire company.
It's a matter of growth
We all make mistakes, but sometimes they're zingers.
"I would like to direct your attention to revenue growth," Matthews points out. "Sirius XM's revenue growth stands at 108%, dwarfing all of the competition and analysts expect revenue to continue to grow over 60% in 2010." That passage draws attention because it's as bold as it is in boldface in the original.
It's also false and misleading.
Analysts don't see Sirius XM growing revenue by 60% next year. The consensus top-line growth spurt is 9%. The 108% claim isn't false, but it's sorely misleading. It is wholly the result of Sirius acquiring the slightly larger XM late last year. On a combined basis, pro forma revenue grew by a mere 1% this past quarter.
The scariest part of the oversight isn't that it happened. We're all human. No, the real shock is that in the more than two dozen "attaboy!" pats on the back in the comments that no one stepped up to correct the obvious.
Also, no one points out that he brings up five-year projections from November 2008 that the company itself withdrew a few weeks later when subscriber counts began heading lower.
These days, even the somewhat bullish analyst that sees Sirius XM turning a profit next year expects subscriber growth to shrink through both the second half of 2009 and all of 2010.
This doesn't mean that there isn't a bullish case to be made for Sirius XM. Cash flows are improving. Higher rates and cost-shaving synergies will help milk more out of the slowly thinning subscriber pool. One also can't dismiss any company with more than 18 million subscribers. That's even more than Netflix
However, I'm still in pursuit of either the perfect bull or perfect bear argument -- I won't find it, though, because it doesn't exist. Every company is flawed. Every stock has potential.
More news than static on Sirius XM:
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a subscriber to both Sirius and XM. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story, except for Netflix and TiVo. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.
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