Sears Holdings (SHLD) is turning to its billionaire CEO Edward Lampert for a financial lifeline that could be worth as much as $500 million. This comes as the cash-strapped retailer prepares to shutter 30 more stores and unloads assets to conserve cash amid growing doubts about its viability.
The letter of credit arranged through Lampert’s ESL Investments and Citibank (C) indicates that Lampert, who put together the 2005 merger that placed the Sears and Kmart chains into one holding company, hasn’t lost faith in his plan to turn around the 123-year-old retailer. Shares of Sears Holdings rose 10 percent to $9.00 on Thursday on news of the $200 credit line, which can be expanded to $500 million.
Skeptics, however, abound. Sears has lost more than $9 billion over the past eight years, and critics say few signs show the company is making up lost ground.
While the overall stock market hit repeated record highs this year, the retailer’s stock price has plummeted almost 60 percent as the chain fell short of its timetable for returning to profitability. Looking ahead, the financial picture looks bleak, given the minimum pension contribution of $596 million Moody’s says Sears needs to make for this year and in 2017.
“It remains uncertain if the company’s operating strategies will stem its continued losses and be sufficient for its cash burn to approach breakeven,” said Moody’s earlier this year when it further downgraded Sears’ speculative-debt rating. “The ratings also reflect our view of the uncertainty of the viability of the Kmart franchise in particular given its meaningful market share erosion.”
Sears didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story, but it has argued that its critics underestimate its resiliency and that it has sufficient financial resources to meet its obligations.
The chain is set to close 30 more Sears and Kmart locations early next year, according to Business Insider. Most of the stores will start liquidation sales on Jan. 5 and will go out of business in March and April. A list of the about-to-close stores (via Business Insider) is at the bottom of this story.
Since 2012, Sears has generated $9.4 billion from a combination of asset sales and financings. Once the current closures are done, Sears will have fewer than 1,500 physical stores, down from more than 3,500 in 2010. The chain has scaled back unprofitable product lines such as consumer electronics and the pharmacy business that operates in most of its Kmart stores.
Sears is looking for more deals and has said it‘s having talks with potential buyers for some of it well-known brands such as Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools, Diehard car batteries and its Sears Home Service businesses. The company also hopes to leverage its “Shop Your Way” loyalty program to transform itself into a “member-centric” retailer similar to Costco (COST).
“Despite the challenges that we face, both real and perceived, we have a plan to deliver for our members and turn the company profitable,” said Chris Braithwaite, Sears Holdings vice president for corporate communications, during the company’s recent earnings call.
Corporate turnarounds, however, are easier to talk about than accomplish.
Here are the Kmart stores that are closing:
- Jasper Mall, Jasper, Alabama
- 2003 US-280, Phenix City, Alabama
- 3001 Iowa Ave., Riverside, California
- 1801 NW US Hwy 19, Crystal River, Florida
- 501 N. Beneva Road, Sarasota, Florida
- 19400 Cochran Blvd., Port Charlotte, Florida
- 2111 S. Federal Highway, Ft. Pierce, Florida
- 1501 Normandy Village Parkway, Jacksonville, Florida
- 2211 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, Florida
- 4955 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, Florida
- 111 Town and Country Dr., Palatka, Florida
- 2815 West Parrish Ave., Owensboro, Kentucky
- 1501 Paris Pike, Georgetown, Kentucky
- 14662 N. US Highway 25 E, Corbin, Kentucky
- 1710 W. Highway 192, London, Kentucky
- 3010 Fort Campbell Blvd., Hopkinsville, Kentucky
- 2945 Scottsville Road, Bowling Green, Kentucky
- 222 North Point Blvd, Baltimore, Maryland
- 9 Plaza Way, Fairhaven, Massachusetts
- 4645 Commercial Dr., New Hartford, New York
- 250 Three Springs Dr., Weirton, West Virginia
- 731 Beverly Pike, Elkins, West Virginia
- 5132 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, Washington
- 1050 Division St., Parkersburg, West Virginia
Sears stores closing:
- Kentucky Oaks Mall, Paducah, Kentucky
- 1901 S. Yale Ave., Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Town Center Mall, Charleston, West Virginia
- Meadowbrook Mall, Bridgeport, West Virginia
- Walden Galleria, Cheektowaga, New York
- Boulevard Mall, Amherst, New York
- 1 Galleria Dr., Middletown, New York