Liberty CEO upbeat about Sirius deal

Greg Maffei sees upside for shareholders

NEW YORK -- In his first public comments on Liberty Media's recent investment in Sirius XM that saved the satellite radio firm from bankruptcy, Liberty CEO Greg Maffei on Wednesday confirmed that his team views the deal mainly as a good investment opportunity.

In his quarterly earnings call, he said Liberty feels there is "relative safety for our capital" in the deal and potential "upside for our shareholders" if Sirius improves it financial momentum.

Liberty didn't bank on potential longer-term strategic opportunities between Sirius and its DirecTV holding in making its investment decision, but Maffei said they could provide further upside.

"It's something that (Sirius CEO) Mel (Karmazin) is enthused about and, I think, (DirecTV CEO) Chase (Carey) is enthused about," he told analysts.

Bundling offers, for example, could be "opportunities down the road," with free trials of Sirius among the possibilities, he said. Mobile video offerings could also be an opportunity down the line, he added.

Maffei also said one of Sirius' financial opportunities is to renegotiate expensive content deals -- struck when Sirius and XM competed for listeners with aggressive capital outlays -- as they expire.

Wall Street has been wondering if the Sirius play is mainly a financial bet for John Malone's Liberty or if it expects big synergy with DirecTV early on.

Maffei also said Wednesday that news on the second step in Liberty's deal with Sirius, which could get it a stake of about 40%, could be unveiled in the coming weeks.
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