sears

Sears Holdings Corp. might be looking to further cut costs and shed real estate, but investors don’t seem hopeful.

Shares of the beleaguered retailer closed Monday at $12.45, a roughly 7 percent drop from Friday’s closing price, after chief executive officer Edward S. Lampert disclosed Sears was increasing its cost-cutting target by $250 million and looking to “accelerate” the monetization of its real estate portfolio.

Sears said it’s so far received more than $700 million in bids on 60 properties, and a special committee overseeing marketing of the real estate is expecting additional bids. Proceeds from any property sales will be used to reduce the company’s debt.

While the property sales and cuts are part of Sears’ broader restructuring effort, which has seen $700 million in annual savings so far, Lampert said the company needs to “take further action” to improve its financial position as its “strategic transformation” continues.

The additional savings will come mainly from closing 92 “underperforming” pharmacy locations and 50 auto locations, in addition to the already announced closure of 150 Sears and Kmart stores, and staffing cuts in retail operations.

“Consistent with our ongoing strategy of focusing on our best stores, best categories and best members, we will continue to take difficult yet necessary actions,” Lampert said. “As we sharpen our focus on profitable areas of our business, we will also continue to closely evaluate the longer-term viability of stores where a clear path to return to profitability is not in sight.”

Moody’s vice president and senior analyst Christina Boni said Sears’ financial performance is “still extremely weak.” Increased cost savings are needed and more cash from property sales will help the company stay afloat, but less real estate also “accelerates the timeline required to stem operating losses as its asset base diminishes,” Boni added.

Sears also named its second chief financial officer in seven months with the appointment of Rob Riecker, previously the company’s controller and head of capital market activities. He’s taking over the position immediately, as Jason Hollar has resigned to “pursue another career opportunity,” according to the company.

All of these actions come on top of word that comparable-store sales at Sears and Kmart declined 11.9 percent during the first quarter, which the company attributed to “continued softness in store traffic and elevated price competition,” despite years of similar declines.

At the end of March, Sears said in a regulatory filing that there was “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue operating as a going concern.  

Sears has yet to release specific numbers for the quarter, but said it expects to post a net income between $185 million and $285 million, thanks to the sale of some real estate and the $900 million sale of its Craftsman business to Stanley Black & Decker earlier this year.

However, results before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization are expected to range from a loss of $230 million to a loss of $190 million, compared with losses, before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, of $181 million during the first quarter of 2016.

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