Are the Major Growth Days Over for Sirius XM?

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) could be facing some tough times going forward, according to analysts. Many recent analyst calls are looking for very little upside ahead. Sure, there are still higher price targets, but there seems to be more caution now that shares are close to multiyear highs again, after hitting $4 briefly in 2013.

Deutsche Bank is the most recent brokerage company to come along with research on Sirius XM. It just initiated coverage of shares with a Hold rating and a price target of $4, compared to Wednesday’s close of $3.94. This price target basically does not imply any upside, and from the looks of it, Deutsche Bank is not the only analyst calling this.

24/7 Wall St. has included a couple other calls made within the past month:

  • Wunderlich reiterated a Hold rating and raised its price target to $4.
  • Maxim Group has a Buy rating and raised its price target to $5 from $4.40.
  • Merrill Lynch is tied for the highest target at $5, which implies an upside of just over 25%.

Year to date, shares are up around 12% but most of this was made up in just the past month’s performance, when shares were up 10%.

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Recently Sirius XM’s subsidiary, Sirius XM Radio, priced an offering of $1.0 billion of senior notes due in 2025, with borrowing costs of just over 5%. It intends to use the net proceeds from the offering for general corporate purposes, which may include the repayment of its outstanding indebtedness.

Looking at the chart, the stock’s performance has been all right, but not exactly impressive. Shares have mainly stayed in the range of $2 to $4 for the past three years. Sure, jumping from $2 to $4 in the short term is impressive, but in the long term, shares were as high $9 about 10 years ago, and much higher back in the Nasdaq bubble days.

Notably, on average, Sirius XM trades more shares daily than virtually 99% of the market, with nearly 34 million shares exchanged daily. This is one of those stocks that investors seem to be superstitious of, and we see that in its volume and short interest. For the most recent settlement date, Sirius had a short interest reading of roughly 152 million shares, with five days to cover. In the past 52-weeks, its highest reading was 318 million shares short.

The idea of long-term growth potential appears to be gone, at least for some analysts covering Sirius XM. Most investors and analysts alike appear to be treating it that way. 24/7 Wall St. wants still to show both sides of the coin and we have gone back to a Merrill Lynch call from February 5, 2015. The firm reiterated its Buy rating with a street-high price target of $5. In the view of the firm, Sirius XM presents a core Pay-Entertainment holding, given that it has fast growth with revenues registering a compound annual growth rate of 6%, a 70% contribution margin, rising new car penetration and vast potential for growth in the used car channel.

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It seems that the Sirius Backseat TV effort failed to deliver on what at least some past big hopes had been. The company’s 2014 annual report said on Backseat TV:

We offer Backseat TV, a service offering television content designed primarily for children, in the backseat of vehicles. We intend to discontinue this service by the end of 2015.

As far as valuations, Sirius XM trades at a big market premium on the surface. It is valued at nearly 50 times trailing earnings, but it is valued at 33 times expected 2015 earnings and at 26 times expected 2016 earnings.

Shares of Sirius XM were down 0.5% at $3.92 at midday Thursday. Previously, the stock hit a 52-week high of $4.04 just on Tuesday. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $4.43 and a 52-week low of $2.98.