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Karmazin: Time Is 'Ripe' for Merger

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NEW YORK Mel Karmazin told analysts Tuesday that the merger of satellite radio services Sirius and XM "is ripe to be granted."

Karmazin, CEO of Sirius, also reiterated his desire to cut prices for satellite radio subscriptions, something he could accomplish far more easily if XM and Sirius were allowed to merge, he said.

Such a merger would save "hundreds of millions of dollars in efficiencies," he said, citing a third-party source he declined to name.

But while Karmazin said it was "unlikely" the merger wouldn't be approved, he also bemoaned the length of time government officials are taking to look into the matter.

Under normal circumstances, the U.S. Department of Justice would have asked a court a long time ago to block the deal if it had a problem with it, though because the FCC also is involved, the process is taking longer.

Karmazin said that the numerous times he predicted the merger would be approved before the end of last year proved optimistic because he was basing his estimation on a historically accurate 180-day informal approval process at the FCC

The DOJ, he said, already has spoken to automakers, Sirius talent and everyone else involved with the industry but still has not made up its mind. Its most common excuse now is that it has "6 million pieces of paper" to go over, documents supplied to it by Sirius.

If DOJ does try to stop the merger, at least "we'd have our day in court," he said. The alternative is that government officials simply sit on the request and do nothing, which he called unfair.

Karmazin, speaking at the Citigroup Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications conference in Phoenix, said he "enthusiastically" looks forward to offering a la carte pricing once Sirius and XM merge, which could save consumers money.

He also said he has been involved with about $150 billion in mergers and acquisitions in his career, but none has receive more scrutiny than this one.

Some lawmakers and lobbyists have been arguing that Sirius and XM should not be allowed to merge because it would create a monopoly, but Karmazin says that notion is ridiculous because pay-radio competes with free radio, Internet radio and iPods.

Karmazin bolstered his argument Tuesday by noting that the National Association of Broadcasters has spent millions trying to block the merger, which it would not have done unless it deemed satellite radio as legitimate competition.