Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

Sears bankruptcy filing report sends retailer's stock sinking

Sears appears to be preparing for a long expected bankruptcy filing Sears names restructuring expert to board as debt is due
Russell Knight | 11 October, 2018, 06:46

The filing could come this week in anticipation of the company's $134 million debt payment due Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

M-III Partners LLC, a boutique advisory firm, has been working on the potential filing in the past few weeks and Sears continues to discuss other options and could still avert an in-court restructuring, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the situation. CNBC earlier reported that the company was arranging a bankruptcy loan, known as debtor-in-possession financing.

Negotiations between Sears Chief Executive Eddie Lampert and Sears' special board committee are at a standstill over the committee's refusal to approve Lampert's rescue plan, the sources said. Sears wants to reduce its debt load by 80%, hoping creditors will bite at the chance to make a deal while the company is still a going concern.

The company's shares are trading at around 59 cents and are down more than 90 per cent in the last 12 months. But its declines goes back decades, well before the growth of online shopping that threatens traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. The Sears special committee had also been 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.

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Sears' most recent announcement of planned store closures, of 63, was announced in May. The other half is leased, and there would be little cost savings from rent restructurings of those stores since Sears already pays well below market rents. Sears now has 529 stores.

Sears hopes Carr can be the salesman it needs to win over creditors.

The Wall Street Journal quoted sources saying Lampert wants to restructure and is anxious that a bankruptcy filing will lead to a liquidation, which has happened with so many retailers, the most recent being Toys R Us.

Larry Perkins, founder and CEO of consulting firm SierraConstellation Partners, told the Washington Post on Wednesday that Sears' hiring of bankruptcy experts "is not a sure sign by any means, but it's certainly a leading indicator" that bankruptcy could be on the horizon. But even as Sears appears to near its "inevitable conclusion", Perkins said its final demise will set a precedent for an iconic American brand that fell from the height of retail dominance. "Maybe it's the phoenix rising from the ashes, but we'll see".

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