Sears Closing 46 More Stores, Experiences Precipitous Drop In Stock Value
The possibility that Sears can turn its fortunes seems to be getting dimmer by the day.
Sears Holdings will close another 46 stores between its Sears and Kmart brands in November, the Wall Street Journal reports. Liquidation sales at the stores, which are in California, New York and West Virginia, could begin as early as next week.
Sears has announced a rash of closures seemingly every few months since 2016 as it tries to reverse a streak of annual revenue losses that has now lasted 12 years. In May 2017, the company expressed "substantial doubts" it could continue as a business in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing due to its debt load, which amounted to $5.2B as of early May, according to the Motley Fool.
Sears CEO Eddie Lampert and his hedge fund, ESL Investments, hold a reported $2.8B of that debt, and a solid chunk of what remains is backed by its real estate and inventory, giving optimism that it can continue to refinance. The retailer also owes nearly $1B to its pension plan, and $411M in unsecured debt that is owed to outside parties and comes due at the end of 2019, leading the Motley Fool to predict that Sears will liquidate its assets by that time.
The value of Sears' real estate has long been held up as a potential saving grace in terms of both cash flow and debt collateral, but it has shed nearly 600 stores since May of last year and earlier spun off much of the property it owns into a separate company called Seritage Growth Properties. That company may persist after a potential store liquidation, as it just obtained a lifeline in the form of a $2B loan from Warren Buffett's investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway.
The string of bad news has only made the end look like more of a certainty to investors, as Sears Holdings stock has plummeted 68% since the start of the year. Seritage, meanwhile, has gained nearly 10% in value over the same time period as it has leased vacated Sears stores to new tenants.