Friday, 19 October, 2018

Sears may be preparing to file for bankruptcy

Sears store in Garden City NY. REUTERS  Shannon StapletonMore Sears store in Garden City NY. REUTERS Shannon StapletonMore
Jean Garcia | 10 October, 2018, 23:22

Sears Holdings shares lost almost a third of their value in early trading on Wednesday after a report said that the beleaguered retailer had hired advisers to prepare for a bankruptcy filing ahead of a debt payment deadline.

The committee has been resisting the plan amid concerns that creditors and shareholders would sue over it being too favorable for Lampert.

The same day, the company revealed that a major shareholder had dumped 142,000 shares this week for only 59 cents to 65 cents a share. But if Sears is now in touch with banks to secure the financing needed for a bankruptcy filing, as CNBC reported Wednesday morning, that could send the surest signal that such a move may not be so far off.

"The problem in Sears case is that it is a poor retailer", said Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData Retail, in a Tuesday research note, where he wrote that he wasn't surprised the retailer was preparing for a possible bankruptcy filing.

Sears is preparing for a possible bankruptcy filing with the help of restructuring firm M-III Partners, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Sears had no comment on the report.

A Sears special committee is weighing a prior offer from Lampert to acquire the retailer's Kenmore appliances brand and its home services business for as much as $480 million.

The impetus for the fast-moving bankruptcy preparation is a $134 million debt payment due this coming Monday. Sears' acting spokesman, Howard Riefs, said Brathwaite had informed the retailer of his exit last month. When Toys "R" Us, the largest specialty toy retailer, filed for bankruptcy protection last September, it sought to emerge from it after restructuring its debt and shutting stores. The stock, which traded above US$100 a decade ago, has fallen to less than $1 in the past year. Sears' borrowings totaled $5 billion as of August 4.

The Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based retailer, once an iconic American retail brand, has posted seven straight years of losses, while its sales have not grown since the 2008 financial crisis. Sears warned it could go out of business as it waits for approval from the committee on the deal. The company is now $5.6 billion in debt, has closed more than half its 2,000 stores since 2004, already sold off most of its major brands, and has seen its shares reduced to penny stock status within the past few weeks.

He also called on the company to sell off $3.25 billion in real estate and assets.

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