Liberty Media CEO on Growing SiriusXM Stake: "Time Is on Our Side"

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Gregory Maffei

Shareholders will vote on April 11 to reclassify into three tracking stocks.

John Malone's Liberty Media, the entertainment conglomerate that owns stakes in SiriusXM Radio, Live Nation, Time Warner, Viacom and others, reported fourth-quarter operating income of $217 million, up from $206 million a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $1.2 billion from $1.1 billion in the same quarter last year.

Liberty disclosed its quarterly results on Friday prior to the opening bell on Wall Street, and shares were 1 percent higher in midday trading.

Liberty is in the midst of reclassifying its stock into three groups: Liberty Braves Group for its baseball assets, Liberty SiriusXM Group for the satellite radio holdings and Liberty Media Group for the rest. CEO Gregory Maffei said on Friday that the plan received regulatory approval a week ago and shareholders will vote on it April 11.

Liberty reported earnings just after saying it settled a lawsuit stemming from its purchase of a stake in USA Networks from Vivendi in 2001. Vivendi was accused of artificially inflating the value of the network, and on Friday Liberty said it received a settlement of $775 million, or about $420 million after taxes are paid.

During a conference call with analysts, Maffei didn't specify what he'll spend the money on, but he suggested valuations have come down with a recent stock swoon so acquisitions or more investments are probably on the horizon.

"On market opportunities, our experience is that it generally takes potential sellers more time to come to grips with new market conditions than buyers think they ought, but we do certainly see places where things are more attractive than they were."

Maffei also wasn't shy about stating his ultimate goal concerning Sirius XM, of which Liberty owns 62 percent of today.

"Time is on our side," he said. "I believe we're likely to be the 100 percent owners at some reasonable price." 

Maffei also weighed in on Disney's disclosure a few months ago that it lost 7 million subscribers at ESPN, the nation's top sports network.

"ESPN is in an unusual situation where it's gone from being about as perfect as you can be — in terms of full carriage, relatively high prices, great ad rates, good viewing, etc. — to a world where you may have skinnier bundles and them not being included," Maffei said.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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