Were Lower Subscriber Adds a Fluke at Sirius XM?

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Peak auto was set to be bad news for the likes of Sirius XM Radio Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) and just about any other company where the growth comes from relying on new car sales. And how the market is reacting to earnings might also be a mistake, depending if guidance can be met and valuations can hold up with the stock market this close to all-time highs.

Sirius XM Radio reported strong third quarter earnings, and revenues, EBITDA and free cash flow all appeared to be at or above the bullish analysts’ estimates. One issue which did hurt Sirius XM is that its subscriber net additions were below expectations at 311,000 for a quarter-end of 27 million subscribers. This very well may more than partly due to the impact from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma both hitting within the same quarter. To prove the point, Sirius XM did manage to increase its 2017 guidance for revenue and EBITDA. The company also sees better free cash flow for the year.

Revenue rose 8% to $1.38 billion and adjusted EBITDA was up over 11% to $551 million. Free cash flow rose over 21% to $434 million, and free cash flow share was up 27%.  Sirius XM also showed that its gross margin grew by 141 basis points to 39.9% and within a hair of the 40% margin target that its own management has set in recent years. Earnings of $0.07 per share were above the $0.05 expected.

Average revenue per user also rose to $13.41, and advertising revenue rose 21%. The new vehicle conversion rate remained at 40%. Used car trials rose 14%, and total hardware/equipment revenue was up just over 3%. Churn was roughly 1.9%, likely due to the impact from hurricanes.

Another issue is that Sirius XM Radio spent about $211 million in the third quarter alone on share buybacks, repurchasing approximately 39 million shares. This was actually a lower than expected buyback amount but appears have been limited due to the $300+ million payment related to the Pandora transaction. Sirius had also spent some $46 million in dividends and raised its payout by another 10%.

As far as increased guidance, Sirius XM offered the following for full-year 2017:

  • self-pay net subscriber additions of approximately 1.4 million;
  • revenue of approximately $5.4 billion;
  • adjusted EBITDA approaching $2.1 billion;
  • and free cash flow of approximately $1.54 billion.

So far we have yet to see many analysts make updated views after the Sirius XM earnings report. BofA Merrill Lynch has so far reiterated its Buy rating and maintained its $6.50 price objective.

Zacks noted that Sirius XM beat earnings expectations as well, but the research firm’s own proprietary rating has a Sell rating on it.

Shares of Sirius XM were seen down almost 3% at $5.55 late on Wednesday, with a 52-week range of $4.07 to $5.89. Its consensus analyst target price is $5.72 — matching the same close ahead of earnings.

Shares of The Liberty SiriusXM Group (NASDAQ: LSXMA), the controlling entity under John Malone’s Liberty group of companies, were also down 2.65% at $42.08 late on Wednesday. Its 52-week range is $31.83 to $46.43.

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