Citi analyst boosts Liberty Media rating to "Buy"

NEW YORK -- A Citi analyst on Tuesday raised his rating for Liberty Media Corp. to "Buy" from "Neutral," predicting that the company will soon take control of Sirius XM Radio Inc.

Jason Bazinet, who also backed his "Buy" rating for Sirius XM, noted that over the past few months Liberty has spent $1.4 billion to boost its stake in the satellite radio broadcaster to from 40 percent to 49.6 percent. He added that he expects the company to cross the 50 percent line later this year.

Once Liberty Media has a 50 percent stake in Sirius, Bazinet said it's likely that Sirius will begin a $3 billion stock buyback program that will allow Liberty to largely recoup its $1.4 billion investment while keeping a 50 percent stake in Sirius.

Meanwhile, Bazinet expects Sirius' stock should rise to $3 per share over the next 12 months, boosting value for Liberty. In light of that, Bazinet boosted Sirius' price target by 50 cents to $3 and Liberty's by $27 to $121.

The Englewood, Colo.-based conglomerate controlled by cable TV magnate John Malone saved Sirius from near-bankruptcy in 2009 by agreeing to lend it up to $530 million in exchange for preferred stock.

This year, Liberty has been steadily increasing its ownership of Sirius as part of its plans to take control of the company.

In premarket trading, Sirius shares rose 7 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $2.63, while Liberty shares were unchanged at $104.77.