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XM Satellite Radio reaches 30,000 users

Satellite radio broadcaster XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. said Monday it hit the high end of the subscriber benchmark set by Wall Street, suggesting the new service has sparked consumer interest.

XM Chief Executive Hugh Panero told the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas the company had 28,000 subscribers at Dec. 31, and had increased to 30,000 since then.

Wall Street analysts estimated it would sign between 20,000 and 30,000 subscribers for the period ended Dec. 31.

The company has already shipped 100,000 radios, Panero said, adding that its manufacturing partners would produce 50,000 radios a month by March.

The radio service is the first of kind in the United States, with about 100 music and news channels available to car stereos and home systems via satellite for $9.99 per month. Some of XM’s music channels are also commercial free.

XM, which broadcasts digital-quality radio programs, first started its service in San Diego and Dallas in September. Since it rolled out its service in November, analysts have reported that demand appears to be stronger than expected.

Panero also said the company would likely exceed its original target of selling in 6,000 retail stores nationwide by the end of the first quarter. XM is currently available in 4,500 outlets.

Panero said probably “a few thousand” radios had been sold but not yet activated, though he declined to provide an exact figure.

XM’s announcement came hours after its only competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., said it would begin streaming all of its stations live over the Web as a way to preview its service ahead of a Feb. 14 limited rollout.

Sirius Chief Executive Joe Clayton reaffirmed the company’s intention to make the service available nationwide by July or August.

Clayton told Reuters that Sirius and XM had conversations about producing a radio that would receive both services, as required by their licenses.

Panero told Reuters the two sides have agreed on specifications for hardware, including the radio receivers and the antennas, but a joint product was not close to reality.

Panero also said in an interview he expected the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to finalize rules in the near future for the ground-based signal repeaters XM and Sirius use to amplify their signals. XM’s repeaters currently operate with a temporary license.

Shares in both companies rebounded in late afternoon trade on Nasdaq, after being among the top percentage losers before the news.

Shares in XM Satellite closed off $1.29 to $14.85, recovering from earlier lows of $13.31. Shares in Sirius ended 80 cents lower at $9.15.

Shares in XM, which had rallied with the broad market from early October, have fallen by about 30 percent over the past three weeks.

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