Sirius XM Hits Highs With a Little Help From Its Friends

Sirius XM Radio is barreling into tomorrow morning's earnings report with momentum. Shares of the satellite radio provider hit yet another six-year high this morning, fueled by favorable analyst coverage and the extension and expansion of its partnership with a leading automaker.

FBR Capital Markets is initiating coverage of Sirius XM with a bullish outperform rating. It's slapping a $5.50 price target on the shares. It also picked up coverage of majority stakeholder Liberty Media with a similar rating. John Malone's eclectic media empire that includes a little more than 50% of Sirius XM is getting a $200 price target.

Sirius XM also made some of its own luck by broadening its deal with Honda . Starting next year, Honda's American subsidiary will begin increasing the penetration of vehicles with satellite receivers across its entire lineup. Beyond the popular cars already selling with factory-installed receivers, Sirius XM will be available on the Fit, CR-Z, and Insight. Satellite radio will also become standard on the Acura ILX. The new deal runs through 2020.

Honda Fit will be part of the new Sirius XM deal. Source: Honda.

This morning's press release points out that Honda has produced more than 5.6 million vehicles since offering factory-installed receivers a decade ago. Sirius XM pointed out earlier this year that there are more than 50 million cars out there with Sirius or XM receivers, so Honda is clearly a major player.

You have to like Sirius XM's bargaining power at this point. The original automaker deals were struck back when Sirius and XM were rivals. Now that there's only one provider of satellite radio, Sirius XM should have all of the leverage it needs as it negotiates for programming deals through both content creators and the automotive distribution channel.

All of this leads up to tomorrow morning's third-quarter report and conference call. Analysts see healthy growth on both ends of the income statement, adjusted for debt extinguishment charges, of course. On that front, it's encouraging to see FBR Capital Markets initiate coverage of Sirius XM -- and the very Sirius XM-dependent Liberty Media -- just ahead of the report. It's a comforting sign of conviction when an analyst steps up now instead of waiting until the numbers are out. It's been problematic in the past when the stock has run up to new highs ahead of a quarterly report. Even if it's solid, there could be some profit taking. However, it's clear that Sirius XM is heading int he right direction, regardless of what market volatility dictates for tomorrow's menu.

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