NEW YORK — Edward Lampert may be aware of what it takes to build a strong Sears Holdings Corp., but it wasn’t enough to push the corporate credit ratings of a merged Kmart-Sears into investment grade territory.

On Thursday, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s assigned a “BB+” corporate credit rating to Sears Holdings Corp., the parent of the soon-to-be-merged retailers Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Holding Corp. The merger is expected to be completed in early March. The ratings outlook, S&P said, will be negative.

Separately, Lampert, who is chairman of Kmart and founder of ESL Investments, which took the retailer out of bankruptcy two years ago, filed a revealing Form 4 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the document, filed on Monday, Lampert bought 21.8 million shares of Kmart Holding Corp. at $10 per share, or $218 million. At Thursday’s close of $100, this translates to $2.18 billion worth of stock on paper. The buy brings Lampert’s direct and indirect holdings of Kmart to 84 million shares, or $8.4 billion.

It appears that Lampert exercised a special option relating to the reorganization of Kmart back when it was still in Chapter 11. The original restructuring involved a $293.4 million investment by Lampert’s ESL Investments and Third Avenue Trust. His investment was to be in exchange for stock of the emerged company, Kmart Holding Corp.

Lampert and Kmart could not be reached for comment.

Shares of Kmart have been flat since the beginning of the year, at around $100. Its 52-week high is $119.69, and the low is $26.10.

Regarding the Standard & Poor’s action on Thursday, the agency assigned its “BBB-” rating to the new $4 billion senior secured revolving credit facility co-borrowed by Sears Roebuck Acceptance Corp. (the financing arm for Sears) and Kmart. A recovery rating of “1” was assigned to the loan, indicating the expectation of a full recovery of principal in the event of a default.

According to S&P, “BBB-” is the lowest investment grade rating, while “BB+” represents the highest speculative grade rating.

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