Liberty Rumors Orbit Sirius XM

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With a recently announced projection that it will add 500,000 subs in 2010, and coming off its first-ever positive free cash flow, Sirius XM appears to have snapped smartly back from its brush with bankruptcy a year ago. Indeed, SIRI's share price has climbed dramatically from its nickel low just months ago, topping out recently at over $1.

But deciphering just what is driving the satellite broadcaster's share price growth into double digit multiples -- particularly at a time when star property Howard Stern is reconsidering his career options -- has become a matter of intense speculation in investment circles.

Depending on which side of Wall Street you walk on, the buzz centers on just what Sirius XM's financially flush savior, Liberty Media, may be up to.

Some SIRI bulls like Brandon Matthews believe that Liberty is orchestrating nothing less than a worldwide consolidation of satellite radio, pointing to its recent acquisition of the orbital assets and European spectrum licenses of now-defunct satcaster WorldSpace. Matthews also suggests that the new subsidiary created to absorb those assets, Liberty Satellite Radio, is perfectly poised to begin a buy-up of SIRI stock with help from Liberty Capital, allowing it to take control of what would become a de facto global monopoly.

At the same time, more conservative tech stock analysts suggest that the stocks run-up may be leveling off. At least one of them, Matthew Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities recently shifted from a buy to a hold recommendation on the stock, based on weakening sales figures for cars in January.

Regardless of the spin, all eyes are likely to remain on Liberty and Sirius in the coming year.

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