Dollar-Bleeding US Satellite Radio Firms to Merge

20 February 2007

With combined losses exceeding $1.5 billion (€1.14bn; £769.3m) in 2005 - the even worse news for 2006 is due any day now - XM Satellite Radio Holdings and Sirius Satellite Radio have finally bowed to the inevitable and agreed to merge.

Billed as a 50/50 "merger of equals" (as was AOL and Time Warner back in 2000), XM and Sirius shareholders will have an equal stake in the merged company, while XM chairman Gary Parsons and Sirius ceo Mel Karmazin will retain their current roles in the new entity.

But it is by no means certain that the long-awaited deal will receive the nod from regulators. Each member of the duopoly is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission whose chairman Kevin Martin has already stated that the desperate duo will face "a high hurdle".

Martin's judgement is based on a 1997 rule specifically forbidding such a deal. It would need to be consigned to the juridical trashcan before any marriage could be consummated. The union would also require the benediction of the Department of Justice.

The moneymen, however, are licking their lips at the prospect of a merger.

Salivates Sanford C Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett: "The strategic benefits of a merger would be tremendous. Programming contract renewals would no longer be the subject of bidding wars. Automotive revenue-sharing agreements and retailer commission deals would suddenly be uncontested."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online, additional content by WARC staff