Sirius XM Radio Inc shook off the threat of a Nasdaq delisting on Tuesday, vindicating the scores of retail investors who had bet on the satellite radio service when it was shunted by big institutional funds.
While many small-time investors have seen their investment in Sirius double or even triple in the past year, some say they won't be cashing in profits and are holding on to their shares in the hope of further gains.
Wall Street brokerages have price targets on Sirius at around $1.15 to $1.35 a share, not far above the $1.145 that the stock closed at on Tuesday, which was the 10th day that it has ended above $1, satisfying a Nasdaq listing requirement.
Ron Reed, an individual investor from Burleson, Texas, thinks Sirius XM can gain another dollar or two.
I'm feeling more confident (and) still in it for the long haul, said Reed, who bought Sirius about a year ago when it traded at 42 cents a share. He had hoped the stock would end 2009 as high as $2: it only made it to 60 cents, and he had recently considered liquidating his position.
Since then, however, the company -- home to original programing from Oprah Winfrey, Howard Stern, Major League Baseball and others -- has reported its first profit and Chief Executive Mel Karmazin has pointed to subscriber growth and a 7 percent increase in revenue this year.
Despite the fact that Sirius shares have jumped 91 percent -- nearly tripling Reed's initial investment -- he's not ready to jump off of the bandwagon.
To be sure, Sirius is one of the most volatile stocks on Nasdaq with a huge float of 3.9 billion shares. Internet finance sites and Twitter streams are filled with daytraders' tales of jumping into -- and out of -- Sirius every day. On the day after he bought into Sirius, one such trader told Reuters: it was highly doubtful I will hold. He sold the next day.
But now that the stock is trading above $1, that could return credibility that was lost when it dipped as low as 5 cents last February, and pave the way for more institutional investors to consider Sirius XM shares.
Mutual funds tend to shy away from a company whose shares trade under $5 and all but avoid those under $1. Sirius XM's current top institutional shareholders include Manulife Financial's MFC GLobal, Vanguard Group and Apollo Investment .
BIG MARKET CAP, SMALL STOCK PRICE
At about $4.4 billion, Sirius XM's market cap is in the same ballpark as some peers, such as the Virgin Media entertainment company's roughly $6 billion, but dwarfs others like radio station owner Westwood One's $250 million.
Sirius' size and massive daily average volume of 160 million shares made delisting unlikely, analysts say, but its penny stock status kept a cloud of uncertainly over the company, which was created by the 2008 merger of Sirius and XM Satellite Radio.
In those months, CEO Karmazin has managed the auto industry crisis, which threatened Sirius's ability to gain new subscribers, and overcame a mountain of debt, through refinancing and a deal with cable pioneer John Malone that gave his Liberty Media a 40 percent equity stake.
It's the expertise of Karmazin, who himself owns about 32 million shares, that keeps Matthew Baumbach, of Philadelphia, betting that he can build on his Sirius windfall.
Sirius is worth holding mostly because of its current CEO, said Baumbach, who said his holdings were as big as 20,000 shares. He's taken profits but still owns about 2,000 shares bought at an average price of about 64 cents each.
Karmazin is savvy, not just from an operational sense, though he's that too, he said. The only potential major impacts to the stock price on the downside have been present for a while now, and may even be priced-in somewhat: (such as) what happens with Howard Stern's contract.
Stern's contract status is nothing to sneeze at: his 5-year $500 million deal ends this year. Stern is Sirius' best known personality, and the company may have to compete with everyone from terrestrial radio to American Idol for his services.
Sirius also faces competition from portable Internet music services like Pandora, and remains vulnerable to weakness in the economic, said analyst Matthew Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities.
It isn't anything that is going to blunt near term momentum, he said. It's a very cyclical story. To the extent that the economy holds up, it's a pretty good value here.
(Reporting by Franklin Paul; Editing by Richard Chang)