01 dicembre 2008

DAB-S: Sirius XM abbi il coraggio di non fallire

E' passata la settimana di Thanksgiving negli USA e il sito di notizie e approfondimenti finanziari Motley Fool, da sempre molto critico nei confronti del management dei servizi di radiofonia satellitare digitale ha pubblicato questa preghiera per il Giorno del Ringraziamento dedicata agli investitori. Chi ha acquistato azioni Sirius XM si ritrova in mano il classico titolo carta-straccia di pochi centesimi di dollaro di valore. Costa molto di più stampare una azione Sirius che acquistarla, o venderla in borsa. C'è da ben poco da essere riconoscente, scrive Rick Munarriz che tuttavia si augura che Sirius abbia il coraggio di non scegliere la strada più facile davanti a un debito impressionante, superiore ai 3 miliardi di dollari: la strada del fallimento. Ma se l'ipotesi della ricapitalizzazione (trovare nuovi soldi) appare quanto mai improbabile e sconsigliabile in questo momento, con un titolo che non vale niente e che non reggerebbe la "diluizione" legata all'emissione di nuovo equity, che cosa può fare Sirius? Secondo Munarriz è arrivato il momento delle scelte strategiche coraggiose, dell'abbinamento tra stream satellitare e Web, dell'impiego di Internet e dei suoi strumenti di aggregazione come sorgente di revenues pubblicitarie e di nuove iniziative, della diversificazione dell'offerta e del business model.
Sono sufficienti questi consigli? Sono soprattutto realistici, insomma funzionerebbero? Non è facile dirlo ma questa ormai appare l'unica alternativa possibile alla definitiva chiusura.

A Thanksgiving Prayer for Sirius XM

Rick Aristotle Munarriz
November 26, 2008

It's time to be grateful, but Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) shareholders are probably feeling more like turkeys these days. The stock has hit an all-time low of $0.14 in each of the past four trading days.
This is certainly not where investors thought they would be. The merger between Sirius and XM cleared the interminable regulatory hurdles. The post-merger synergies are mostly on track. However, a combination of burdensome debt levels in a tightening credit environment and cascading subscriber targets in the face of a perfect storm of waning discretionary income and a plethora of music-consumption alliances is clobbering the stock.
Since I know that I am bound to be thankful for so many things tomorrow between forkfuls of cornbread stuffing and pumpkin cheesecake, I may as well take the time to express my wishes for Sirius XM between now and next Thanksgiving.

Gobble gobble, one of us

Let's start with the lingering possibility of bankruptcy reorganization. It is essentially why shares are being swapped for pocket change and belly button lint today. Mr. Market doesn't think that Sirius has what it takes to repay more than $1 billion in debt -- of a whopping $3.4 billion in total debt -- that is due next year.
My first Thanksgiving wish is that Sirius XM doesn't file for bankruptcy. I have received emails pointing out that CEO Mel Karmazin has said that bankruptcy isn't an option. If only it was that easy. Unfortunately, it may not be up to him. It's hard to raise money selling new bonds or equity when your stock trades for pennies. Even if he is somehow successful, the dilution will be colossal.
Sirius XM creditors would love to be made whole, but they may be forced to settle for less by forcing Karmazin's hand into bankruptcy court if they feel that the company's direction will continue to disintegrate.
That would be terrible. I'm not just saying this for the stock's passionate common shareholder base that would likely be wiped out, or even for the eventual privatization of a carved out Sirius XM that would leave me with less to write on the matter. Any consumer-facing company that files for bankruptcy reorganization threatens its very model by igniting defections within its user base.
How many people do you think will go shopping at Circuit City (OTC BB: CCTYQ.PK) this holiday season, fearing that this month's bankruptcy filing will get in the way of merchandise returns or gift card redemptions?
Even if most of the satellite radio giant's 18.9 million subscribers know the difference between bankruptcy reorganization and outright liquidation, many will bolt fearing unwelcome changes under the possibility of new ownership at the other end of the reorganization spectrum.

Changes you can believe in

As a subscriber to both XM and Sirius, I wasn't happy with the programming shuffle consolidation that took place earlier this month. However, there are plenty of items on my wish list that do involve the company changing:

* I want an app to let me stream Sirius and/or XM on my iPhone. Sirius XM has forged relationships in the past with cell phone networks and handset makers like Alltel, AT&T (NYSE: T) and more recently Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM). However, these are ridiculously overpriced plans given the limited content and freebie alternatives. I want an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) app -- and not just a third-party one -- to make it seamless for paying subscribers with receivers to make the included Web streaming truly portable.

* I want Sirius XM to diversify its revenue streams. The stock has been hammered as the company talks down its targets, as it lives and dies by subscription revenue. Why is advertising revenue per listener going down as its affluent audience is scaling higher? Why isn't it monetizing its site and Web streaming? Even eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) run third party ads on their sites, and those are companies with far more to lose in shooing someone away with a revenue-generating click.

* Tapping that same vein, I want Sirius XM to make the most of its audience by launching dynamic and sticky online destinations. Shouldn't each of its genre-specific music channels be the catalyst for a social network? Aren't there more outlets to market its original content?

In the end, Sirius XM has so much untapped potential. My ultimate Thanksgiving prayer is for Sirius XM to be around -- bigger, better, and more dynamic than ever -- by the time Thanksgiving 2009 rolls around.

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