SiriusXM Drives Higher Liberty Media Financials

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Liberty Media chairman John Malone

The company, controlled by billionaire mogul John Malone, also reports financials for the Atlanta Braves and Formula One.

Liberty Media, the company controlled by billionaire mogul John Malone and which houses assets like satellite radio company SiriusXM Radio, the Atlanta Braves baseball club and the Formula One racing circuit, on Thursday reported higher fourth-quarter financials.

Operating income for the period rose 15 percent to $379 million. Adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA), another profitability metric, rose 3 percent to $650 million. The company's fourth-quarter revenue edged up 1 percent from $1.99 billion to $2.01 billion.

And as Vivendi seeks a strategic partner to snap up half of Universal Music Group, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei on an analyst call said Sirius XM could be a possible suitor. "An ownership stake in Universal Music could be interesting," he revealed as Maffei situated a UMG stake alongside SiriusXM Radio and the newly acquired online radio company Pandora Media.

But the exec stressed any deal for a stake in the home of Drake, Taylor Swift and U2 had to be on "the right terms and conditions." Vivendi has signaled it intends to sell up to half of UMG after ruling out an initial public offering.

Maffei also gave an update on iHeartRadio, which is set to exit bankruptcy protection. Liberty Media last year offered to invest $1.16 billion in iHeartMedia for a 40 percent stake, but then pulled the offer amid opposition from the parent company.

Maffei forecast that iHeartMedia's bankruptcy plan, which has been approved by the courts, will see the restructured radio giant exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the second quarter. At that point, Liberty Media will retain a 5 percent stake in the streaming radio service iHeartRadio, and around $284 million of its debt.

Maffei in the past has talked about Liberty Media possibly increasing its stake in iHeartMedia, and he returned to that theme on Thursday as Liberty Media looks to grow in the global music arena. "The opportunities for us to have synergies ... are still very interesting," he said.

Liberty Media, as it unveiled its results, saw SiriusXM post an operating profit increase of 16 percent to $436 million as subscriber growth drove revenue higher. Liberty Braves Group's operating loss of $28 million narrowed from a year-ago loss of $68 million, with the company citing "higher revenue and reduced operating expense due to the acceleration of player salary expense in prior periods as a result of released and injured players." And Formula One swung to an operating loss of $29 million from a year-ago profit of $24 million as revenue decreased "primarily due to one less event," the company said.

"SiriusXM finished strong, hit financial milestones and ended the year with 34 million subscribers. The transaction with Pandora closed on February 1, and we are excited for the innovative audio entertainment offerings to come," Maffei said in a statement that accompanied his latest financial results.

"Formula One concluded an exciting 2018 season and increased fans at the races, TV viewership and social media engagement. The Braves posted strong financial results in their second year at SunTrust Park and the Battery Atlanta, and we look forward to the start of the season on March 28," he added.

SiriusXM recently closed its $3.5 billion deal to acquire music streaming firm Pandora Music.

Feb. 28, 11:30 a.m. Updated with comments by Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei made during an analyst call.