Satellite Radio had a wild day in the markets today fueled by a small statement issued by the stock news service briefing.com, as well as other rumors that I will not report at this time because they were quickly dispelled. In their news short, the Briefing folks sent the following statement:
“Two members of the House Anti-Trust committee “have expressed concern about the Justice dept. review of the Sirius/XM merger.”
The news immediately sent both Sirius and XM in a downward spiral with a huge sell off. Many were unaware of the story or rumors, and in reaction felt that bad news regarding the merger must have happened. The self off continued. As things settled down, the stocks recovered to more respectable levels, but are still down sharply as compared to where they were trading prior to the news.
Reuters offered some clarity after hours. The lawmakers, Conyers and Chabot are not on the House Anti-Trust committee, but rather the Judiciary Committee. In their letter they stated, “We were dismayed to learn of recent press reports suggesting that Justice Department staff may be trying to rush through the merger before you have an opportunity to fully participate, and that Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Thomas O. Barnett may intend to grant the merger over the objections of department staff.” The letter also requested that Attorney General Mukasey “preserve your (Mukasey) ability to personally participate in the department’s deliberations.” Interestingly, the Attorney General himself/herself rarely gets deeply involved in such matters, and if Attorney General Mukasey wants to review the matter he certainly has the ability to do so. The letter seems to be a response to reports issued recently by analysts Cowen and Peck. The congressmen likely want to ensure that DOJ policies are being followed. Reasonably speaking, given the high profile of this merger, the policies are indeed being adhered to.
Conyers and Chabot made it clear that they have taken no position on the merger. These same two at one point corrected the record after the National Association of Broadcasters published reports citing that Conyers and Chabot were against the merger. The NAB issued an apology.
Interestingly, while the market took the news as negative, there is a side of this that can be viewed as positive for the merger. The lawmakers have no real control over the issue. While there is indeed some oversight, a direct impact on a merger decision is not within their scope. Simply stated, Conyers and Chabot were expressing concern that the process was being “rushed”, and that policy be followed. The DOJ has had plenty of time to review all information, and has followed typical procedures throughout, so likely the congressmen will have nothing to take exception to. The fact that these two lawmakers wrote this letter would be indicative that a decision is nearing.
If anything, today’s activity should indicate to investors how this stock can move on merger news, and the hair trigger that many are on as they await the decision.
Position – Long Sirius, Long XM