‘Sears aims to close up to 150 stores in bank­ruptcy’

The plans would leave fate of Sears’ re­main­ing roughly 250 stores un­cer­tain. The fu­ture of the stores could hinge on Sears’ ne­go­ti­a­tions with land­lords over their leases.

The Sunday Guardian - - Business - REUTERS

fu­ture of the stores could hinge on Sears’ ne­go­ti­a­tions with land­lords over their leases.

In to­tal, Sears has about 700 stores and roughly 90,000 em­ploy­ees.

The be­lea­guered 125-yearold re­tailer, once the largest in the United States, hopes to sell stores and other as­sets, in­clud­ing its Ken­more ap­pli­ances brand and home ser­vices busi­ness, in court­su­per­vised auc­tions while un­der bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion, the sources said.

Sears Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­die Lam­pert, also the com- pany’s largest share­holder and cred­i­tor, is ex­plor­ing bid­ding on the as­sets as a so-called stalk­ing horse, set­ting a floor with of­fers that other pos­si­ble buy­ers could then at­tempt to top, the sources said.

Reuters first re­ported on Thurs­day that Lam­pert was ex­plor­ing bid­ding for some Sears as­sets. Such a plan could po­ten­tially keep a slim­mer Sears alive as a go­ing con­cern, the sources said.

Sears was mak­ing progress in its ne­go­ti­a­tions with banks on Fri­day for fi­nanc- ing to keep it afloat through the hol­i­day sea­son while in bank­ruptcy court, with lenders ex­pected to pro­vide sev­eral hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars, the sources said. The bank­ruptcy loan amount is un­likely to sig­nif­i­cantly ex­ceed $400 mil­lion, though it could end up be­ing less, the sources said.

A key un­re­solved as­pect of Sears’ ne­go­ti­a­tions with lenders in­volves set­ting dead­lines for Sears to achieve spe­cific busi­ness goals while un­der bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tions, the sources said.

Sears is plan­ning to seek bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion in New York as soon as Sun­day night, though a court fil­ing could slip into Mon­day, the sources added, ask­ing not to be iden­ti­fied be­cause the ne­go­ti­a­tions are con­fi­den­tial.

Sears did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Sears shares were trad­ing up 20% at 41 cents on Fri­day, giv­ing the com­pany a mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of $40 mil­lion.

Lam­pert could help fi­nance his bids for the as­sets by for­giv­ing some of the money Sears owes him, as op­posed to putting in more cash, Reuters re­ported on Thurs­day.

At its peak in the 1960s, Sears sold ev­ery­thing from toys to auto parts to mailorder homes, and was a key tenant in al­most ev­ery big mall across the United States. But it has strug­gled to rein­vent it­self in the face of com­pe­ti­tion from com­pa­nies such as Ama­zon. com Inc, as well as other brick- and- mor­tar re­tail­ers, in­clud­ing Wal­mart Inc.

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