Bruce Berkowitz is sticking by Sears Holding Corp.
The chief investment officer of Fairholme Capital Management, which is Sears’ second-largest investor behind chairman and chief executive officer Edward S. Lampert, said there is still potential in the company.
“It’s taking much longer than we thought, but we’re still optimistic,” he wrote in a recent letter to shareholders posted to the Fairholme web site Tuesday afternoon.
Taking something of a trust-but-verify approach, Berkowitz adopted a more activist stake in the company late last year and ultimately joined its board in February.
The stock has lost 12 percent of its value over the past six months, but closed up 0.5 percent, to $14.87, on Tuesday.
Fairholme Capital holds 27.8 million shares of the company’s common stock, or 26 percent of the ailing retailer, but Berkowitz also owns the firm’s debt, including what he described as “short-duration bonds yielding over 10 percent.”
He noted that the company is focused on restoring profitability and is transitioning to an approach that would make it an asset-light, member-centric integrated retailer.
Profitability has been a running theme for the investor. When asked on a conference call with investors whether the money Sears has spent trying to stay competitive has been worthwhile, he replied: “If Sears is able to return to profitability this year, which is the company’s most important focus during 2016, then yes, it has been worthwhile. A considerable portion of the past cash burn is voluntary, based on the transformation of the retail businesses. The remaining portion is based upon the pension and rent expenses, which will go down with time.”
The value produced lately at Sears has come from repeated spin-offs, including Lands’ End and real estate in the Seritage Growth Properties, which Berkowitz also has a stake in.
The investor noted Sears “intends to unlock more value for shareholders by exploring strategic alternatives for its Home Services as well as Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands.”
He also noted that “market observers are just discovering parts of Sears that they hardly knew existed” and pointed to Innovel Solutions, which was previously known as Sears Logistics Services, and is a profitable delivery service with 1,100 trucks.