In his recent interview with Mel Karmazin, David Faber of CNBC received a lot of negative feedback regarding Mel's promise that Sirius XM would be free cash flow positive in 2009. I for one applaud him. For many years Sirius and XM stock traded based on the unfulfilled promises of cash flow break-even, which were to come "very soon," or "next year."
The premise seemed simple enough. There were supposed to be enough fixed costs in SDARS that the addition of millions of subscribers and the addition of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue should lead to prosperity. Each and every quarter brought with it however, higher revenues together with higher operating costs and expenses. With each passing quarter, cash flow break-even has only inched its way towards reality.
Sirius XM very well may be free cash flow positive in the near future, but the street doesn't seem to care and to tell you the truth, neither do I. The company has cried wolf once too often. No one believes it anymore, and the sheep are being slaughtered.
I happen to be one of those sheep. In my opinion, there are certain events that are going to happen near-term which will be positive for Sirius XM shareholders, but I don't think it will be enough. I have heard from Mel regarding the number of subscribers being second only to Comcast. That's an advertiser selling point. It would appear to me that the near-term plans to improve the balance sheet are well under way. Higher ad revenue and cost cutting seem to be of most importance.
But can the shareholders afford to wait? I doubt it. As the short sellers on Wall Street continue to manipulate the stock and spread rumors that go unnoticed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the stock continues to make new lows. With every new low comes yet another doom and gloom article by the Motley Fool or the Street.com, or statement by Jim Cramer. Investors are fearful that they will ride the stock down from 1.50 to 1.00, only to see a rise back to 1.40 on any news. The company is giving no real reasons to own the stock right now.
Recently, XM announced a buyback of some of its outstanding notes, and the street had no reaction. In my opinion , a common stock share buyback program is imperative at this point. If there are in fact 400 million dollars in synergies going forward, how about putting 100 - 200 million of that up to prove it. Let's face it, if the company believes that the stock is undervalued, would it not make sense to buy the stock for the company treasury at this low price? After all they just lent out hundreds of millions of shares for UBS and Morgan Stanley to short against. It would also be nice to see some insiders like Mel and other board members put up a few more dollars of their own money to raise investor confidence. I believe the company MUST do this, and do it soon to salvage what is left of the stock price and raise confidence that a bottom has in fact been made.