Can Pandora Find a Buyer This Time?

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Last April activist investor Keith Meister sent a letter to Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) on behalf of Corvex Management urging the company to seek an acquisition. Pandora paid no attention.

In July Pandora turned down an informal offer of $15 a share from Liberty Media Corp. (NASDAQ: LMCA), the majority owner of Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI). Now CNBC is reporting that Pandora is willing to pursue a deal with SiriusXM, according to sources. SiriusXM is reportedly interested, too, and Pandora’s stock price has climbed to $12.50 on the report, up from $11.48 at Thursday’s close.

And while it’s true that the company’s share price has bounced back from its April lows of around $8 a share, one could argue that the share price gains reflect shareholders hopes that the company will be acquired. In mid-October analysts at Goldman Sachs added Pandora to the firm’s prized Conviction Buy list and raised the price target from $17 to $19 a share. Shares haven’t traded above $15 since December 17, 2015.

A week later Pandora reported third-quarter earning that were below expectations and the stock got driven down more than 3% to around $11.75. Not only that, active listener numbers had fallen and total listener hours rose just 5%.

Pandora’s is and has been a growth story and when growth falters so does the share price. In his April letter to Pandora’s management Meister said, “Pandora increasingly competes against some of the largest, most sophisticated and well-capitalized companies in the world, many of whom do not need a music service to be a profitable business in its own right.”

He’s talking about Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and privately held Spotify. None but Spotify needs its streaming music service to be a major revenue contributor. That is an awfully tough league to play in.

A SiriusXM-Pandora combination could work some new magic, but that’s not a slam dunk either. The long and the short of it, though, is that Pandora needs to find a buyer and the sooner the better.

In any event, Pandora traded up more than 12% in the early afternoon Friday at $12.90 in a 52-week range of $7.10 to $16.23. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $14.16.

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