XM satcaster dials up sub count, stock price

Growth well ahead of reported analyst estimates

Sat radio broadcaster XM added more than 320,000 subscribers in the first quarter, nearly matching its holiday season performance.

Additions bring XM’s total subscribers to 1.68 million. Growth was well ahead of reported analyst estimates of approximately 259,000 new subscribers.

Subscriber growth is 135% higher than in the first quarter of 2003 and nearly 75% of its growth during the fourth quarter of last year, when company underwent a big spike for holiday sales.

With the higher than expected numbers, XM reaffirmed its goal of 2.8 million subscribers by the end of the year, a figure it’s likely to beat if growth continues on the current path and undergoes another jump in the fourth quarter.

Competitor Sirius, which ended 2003 with about 20% as many subscribers as XM, plans to report its first quarter growth numbers along with its earnings in late April.

XM shares closed Friday up slightly more than 5% at $29.86. Investors hoped the XM news portended strong growth for Sirius as well, as its stock rose 2.6% to $3.55.

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