Sears CEO Edward Lampert announced new restructuring plans to help the company stay afloat amid looming debts and bankruptcy scares. Sears Holdings (SHLD), which owns both Sears and Kmart, has been in financial shambles for the past decade losing $11.7 billion since 2010. Sears shares, which years ago traded above $140, are now as low as $1.07. Sears earlier this month also reported a net loss of $508 million for the quarter. As sales continue to drop, Lampert insists that the company can be profitable again.
Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, is proposing to restructure the companies’ debts in a way that will keep the company in operation. If the plan is approved, Sears would reduce roughly $5.5 billion in debt to about $1.24 billion. This would reduce the retailer’s total debt by nearly 80 percent and to do so, Lampert plans to sell as much as he can. The proposal calls on the Sears to sell roughly $1.5 billion of real estate and $1.75 billion of assets, including Sears Home Services and the Kenmore appliance brand to raise the cash to pay down its debt. Lampert would also like the board to restructure about $1.1 billion of debt coming due within the next two years persuading creditors either to accept Sears’ equity in return or accept 25 cents on the dollar for what they are owed. Selling assets could give Sears the cash it needs to stay in business but for Lampert’s plan to work he will need the consent of Sears’s independent board committee and bondholders. In recent years Lampert has overseen many financial moves that have kept sears financially stable. Hundreds of stores have been closed and costs have been cut significantly in order to avoid bankruptcy.
According to documents filed on Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sears now faces significant near-term liquidity constraints, including a $134 million payment due Oct. 15, which ironically will not be a part of the proposed restructuring. Lampert is the CEO, chairman, controlling shareholder and biggest creditor of Sears and has been recognized as the main reason for the companies’ survival over the last several years. It is still unclear if debt holders will agree to ESL’s latest proposal, but the hedge fund said Monday it would be best to accomplish these things “As a going concern, rather than alternatives that would substantially reduce, if not completely eliminate, value for shareholders.” Sears troubles can be attributed to its rise in digital competitors, including a failure to invest in stores and e-commerce. These costly mistakes over the last 8 years has pushed the company to the financial edge, but with these new proposals, Lampert hope to save one of the most well-known companies which has been in business over 100 years.