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Stern Is The Draw At Sirius Satellite Radio

It can't be denied: Howard Stern is earning his keep at Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI) (SIRI). Since the talk-radio star announced he would join Sirius, its subscriber rolls have jumped to more than 4 million, with more than 1 million net additions attributable to Stern, analysts say. In the fourth quarter, Sirius for the first time added more subscribers than rival XM Satellite Radio (XMSR) -- and Stern is the reason, says Joan Lappin, president of Gramercy Capital Management, which owns shares. Sirius had trailed XM by 10 percentage points in brand recognition, and is now 10 points ahead, a phenomenal switch, says Lappin. "It's the Stern Effect," she adds. Maurice McKenzie of investment firm Friedman Billings Ramsey (FBR), who rates the stock, now at 5, "outperform" with a target of 7.50, estimates subs will hit 6 million by yearend. Stern has helped put Sirius on track to break even, or maybe turn profitable by 2007, says McKenzie. Tuna Amobi of Standard & Poor's, who rates Sirius a "five-star strong buy," predicts subs will hit 9.8 million by yearend 2007. He sees revenues leaping to $610 million in 2006 and to nearly $1.1 billion in 2007, up from $242.3 million in 2005. His 12-month price target: 8.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.

By Gene G. Marcial

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