Why Sirius XM Keeps Escaping Peak Auto Fears

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) may continue to be one of the most heavily shorted Nasdaq stocks of them all, but the satellite radio giant has so far managed to escape the woes of “peak auto” that has been seen among the automakers on an earnings day when GM, Fiat Chrysler and Ford were all trading handily lower.

After recently being given the most bullish analyst call of them all with an $8.50 price target, shares of Sirius XM managed to rise after earnings.

Sirius XM’s second-quarter earnings report offered beats on revenue and subscriber expectations. The report showed a gain to $292 million, or six cents per share. That is up from $202 million, or four cents per share, a year earlier. Its revenues rose almost 6% to $1.43 billion in the second quarter of 2018 from the $1.35 billion reported for the same quarter a year ago.

All in all, this is a slightly better picture on revenues and subscribers. What stands out the most is the growth in Sirius XM’s free cash flow rising 17% to $486 million. Its operating cash flow for the second quarter 2018 rose by 20% to $579 million.

The company’s cash on hand was approximately $64 million, and it noted that it still has a completely undrawn revolver with capacity of $1.75 billion. On top of paying about $50 million in dividends, Sirius XM spent $22 million to repurchase roughly 3.6 million common shares.

It was the Sirius XM guidance of higher revenues and subscribers for 2018 that seems to be defying the “peak auto” fears. This was as follows:

  • Self-pay net subscriber additions of approximately 1.15 million
  • Revenue over $5.7 billion
  • Adjusted EBITDA of approximately $2.175 billion
  • Free cash flow of approximately $1.5 billion

As far as why Sirius XM seems to defy gravity of subscriber additions during peak-auto times, we need to look at what has been happening prior to 2018, along with its forward guidance. Sirius XM’s self-pay subscribers grew by 1.56 million to roughly 27.5 million in 2017. Its total subscriber count ended 2017 at roughly 32.7 million, and the company also previously noted that it was providing traffic services to approximately 7.5 million vehicles. The long and short of the matter is that Sirius XM has continued to ratchet its subscriber count higher and higher, even as U.S. automakers have seen a peaking in their unit sales. Then again, once someone subscribes to Sirius XM they hate to unsubscribe.

Jim Meyer, chief executive officer of Sirius XM, said of the quarter:

SiriusXM’s strong start to 2018 accelerated in the second quarter. We added 483,000 net new self-pay subscribers in the quarter with an impressive 1.6% self-pay churn rate, our best-ever performance. Our 6% growth in revenue would have been 8% absent the change in generally accepted accounting principles that was effective January 1st, and we are thrilled to increase our full-year guidance for self-pay net additions, revenue and adjusted EBITDA.

Sirius XM shares were last seen trading up 1.3% at $7.07 on Wednesday morning after its earnings report. The consensus analyst price target from Thomson Reuters was listed as $6.89, and the 52-week trading range is $5.17 to $7.70.