Liberty Media Raises Stake In Sirius, & Is Now Close To Controlling It

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Liberty Media Corp (Capital) (NASDAQ:LMCA) is awaiting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval for gaining control over the Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI), after raising its stake in the radio company to 49.8 percent.

According to a filing with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Liberty Media revealed plans of increasing its stake in the satellite radio company by 30.96 million shares, at an average price of $2.66 per share. Just a couple of months back, in September, John Malone’s Liberty Media, raised its stake in Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI)  to 49.7 percent from 49.2 percent.

Liberty Media Raises Stake In Sirius, & Is Now Close To Controlling It

Liberty Media Corp (Capital) (NASDAQ:LMCA) became the biggest shareholder of Sirius in 2009, after it loaned out $530 million to the company, to help it overcome bankruptcy. As per the agreement then, Liberty Media was allowed to convert the loan into preferred shares, but with a restriction of owning a stake of not more than 49.5 percent in Sirius. The restriction clause expired in March this year.

The satellite radio company announced in October this year that Mel Karmazin will step down as chief executive on February 1, 2013 and will also leave the Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI) board of directors at that time. With Karmazin’s exit, Malone is expected to carry forward his plans to spin off Sirius as a publicly traded company after he acquires a controlling stake. Sirius XM Radio has already established a CEO search committee, but Maffei said that there is a likelihood that the process will stall, expressing his desire to have a new CEO within six months. Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Maffei saying, “We are both looking at internal and external candidates; it’s unlikely to be a one-month process. I would hope it would be [at most six months]”.

Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI) recently reported a decline in the third quarter profits, after a $107.1 million debt payment crippled earnings. The largest U.S. satellite-radio company’s net income for the quarter fell to $74.5 million, or 1 cent a share, from $104.2 million, or 2 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter jumped 14 percent to $867.4 million, meeting the analyst expectations of $866.1 million.

Matthew Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities says that Liberty may like a more tech-oriented CEO at Sirius XM Radio, even though Greg Maffei has recently been positive on SIRI’s tech progress at its Boca Raton facility. The rigorous search process is looking at internal and external candidates. Sirius XM David Frear has intimate familiarity with operations and areas for improvement, such as MIS regarding subscribers, and has to be regarded as the early front-runner.

Liberty Media Corp (Capital) (NASDAQ:LMCA) is waiting for FCC approval before raising its stake above 50%. Liberty Media shares closed Friday’s trading at $103.39, up $2.26, or 2.23 percent on a volume of 823,298 shares, while Sirius closed Friday’s trading at $2.69, up $0.04, or 1.51 percent on a volume of 85.73 million shares.

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