Will Sirius XM Buy Pandora or Not?

By Rick Munarriz Markets Fool.com

Image source: Pandora.

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The peculiar courtship betweenSirius XM Radio (NASDAQ: SIRI)and Pandora (NYSE: P) is taking some odd turns in January. Things kicked off earlier this month with Sirius XM CFO David Frear casting doubts on a potential pairing during the CES expo.Frear would go on to argue that buyout activity doesn't seem likely.

Advocates of Sirius XM snapping up Pandora have argued that a deal makes sense given Sirius XM's lack of success when it comes to achieving critical mass with its streaming component, but Frear feels that the ballyhooed cross-selling opportunities may not be as tantalizing as proponents think.

It seemed as if this would be the end of another Wall Street story of unrequited love, but late last week, sources were telling The New York Post that Sirius XM is still interested in making a play for Pandora -- at the right price. Chairman Greg Maffei was reportedly telling some shareholders that Sirius XM is still exploring a purchase of Pandora.

Pandora isn't going to wait forever

The Wall Street Journalreported last summer that Sirius XM's majority stakeholder wasattempting to buy Pandorafor $15 a share. Sources at the time said that Pandora rebuffed the offer, holding out for a bid closer to $20 that clearly never came.

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Pandora closed at $13 yesterday. It has spent most of the past year trading between the high single digits and low teens. The stock's 52-week high is $14.98, and you have to go all the way back to late 2015 to find the last time that Pandora stock was fetching more than the initial $15 offer.

It seems that buyout speculation is about the only thing moving Pandora shares these days, but that wasn't the case late last week. Shares of Pandora spiked higher on Friday after the streaming music pioneer revealed that revenue and adjusted EBITDA for the holiday quarter would exceed its earlier guidance. Strength in its advertising business and a refreshing uptick in premium subscribers helped prop up the results.

Pandora signed up 375,000 net new subscribers to its premium Pandora Plus platform, raising its tally of paying accounts to more than 4.3 million. This is still just over 5% of its total user base, but Pandora's inability to wean freeloaders off its ad-based service has been a pressure point for some Wall Street pros in the past.

Some will rightfully argue that Sirius XM doesn't need Pandora. Shares of Sirius XM hit a 10-year high this month after the company announced that it wrapped up 2016 with a whopping 31.1 million subscribers to its satellite radio service. However, it's clear that Pandora is still on its radar if the stock stays low without the fundamentals falling apart. That window is there now, but it may not last.

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Pandora Media. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.