Lately not a day seems to pass without some materially adverse news hitting a prominent retailer, or the broader space, and today it is perennial default candidate Sears to crash at the open after issuing a "going concern" in its latest 10-K, warning overnight, wrning “substantial doubt” about its ability to keep operating, raising fresh concerns about a company that has lost more than $10 billion in recent years.
“Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Eddie Lampert's company said although always eager to put a positive twist on the worst of news, the company added that its comeback plan may help alleviate the concerns, “satisfying our estimated liquidity needs 12 months from the issuance of the financial statements.” Of course, the question is what happens when vendors start demanding cash on delivery as concerns about SHLD's liquidity concerns continue to grow.
Sears’s stock fell as low as $7.30 in premarket trading before rebounding modestly . It had been down 2 percent this year through Tuesday’s close.
The disclosure comes after more optimistic signs from the company, which has been working on a turnaround under Chief Executive Officer Eddie Lampert. As Bloomberg notes, Sears posted a narrower loss than predicted in the fourth quarter, and it has pledged to lower its debt burden and cut annual expenses by at least $1 billion.
As discussed one month ago, Lampert said he aims to reduce debt and pension obligations by $1.5 billion, an announcement which sent the stock surging although the optimism has been largely eliminated by now. The CEO has helped keep the ailing retailer afloat by offering more than $1 billion of assistance, including a $500 million loan facility announced in January.
As part of its comeback plan, Sears had closed stores, sold real estate and offloaded businesses. Earlier this month, the department-store chain completed the sale of its Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. for about $900 million. “While our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists, we want to be very clear that we’re taking decisive actions to mitigate that doubt,” Howard Riefs, a Sears spokesman, told Bloomberg.
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In a separate report, Payless Inc., yet another struggling discount shoe chain, was preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter Bloomberg noted, and added that the company is initially planning to close 400 to 500 stores as it reorganizes operations. Payless had originally looked to shutter as many as 1,000 locations, and the number may still be in flux, according to one of the people.
Payless’s bankruptcy would add to a tumultuous year in retail, with several bankruptcies and hundreds of store closings -- even at companies that aren’t distressed. The industry is racing to try to adapt to more online purchasing and a shift away from mall shopping.
Payless was bought by private equity firms Golden Gate Capital and Blum Capital Partners in 2012 as part of the breakup of publicly traded Collective Brands Inc. The company, founded in 1956 in Topeka, Kansas, employs almost 22,000 people, according to its website. It has more than 4,000 stores in 30 countries.
As a result of the hundreds of upcoming storefronts between just these two companies, mall operators are bracing for another collapse in rental revenue, which in turn continues to provide fuel to the "big short" trade, namely shorting the debt of mall REITs via CMBX, which as of this morning, hit new lows.