Shares of Sears Holdings Corp. fell 6 percent Wednesday, closing at $4.70 in Nasdaq trading, after the company said it would post a smaller third-quarter loss and sell more stores.
The company is projecting a net loss of between $525 million and $595 million on revenues of $3.7 billion. Consolidated comparable-store sales fell 15.3 percent, with comps at Kmart down 13 percent and at Sears 17 percent. That compares with a loss of $748 million a year ago on revenues of $5 billion. Store closures contributed to the decline in revenues. Wall Street was expecting revenues of $4 billion.
The company said it expects the net loss for the quarter to shrink by $190 million, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization estimated to improve by $100 million at the midpoint range, compared with the year-ago period. It also touted that it would be the “second consecutive quarter of at least $100 million year-over-year improvement in both metrics.”
Sears also said it has achieved its annualized cost savings target of $1.25 billion, helped by the streamlining of operations and financial maneuvers that include store closures and the sale of more real estate assets.
Rob Riecker, Sears’ chief financial officer, said, “We continue to review our capital structure to maximize our additional financial flexibility. In addition, we will continue to evaluate alternatives to meaningfully reduce cash interest payments in 2018.”
Following the end of the quarter in October, the company said it generated $167 million from “real estate transactions and commercial arrangements” that will be used to pay down outstanding real estate loans and the company’s revolver borrowings. That would give the company adjusted availability on its “revolving credit facility and general debt basket.” Further, Sears also paid down borrowings under a term loan maturing in June 2018 by $205 million, reducing the outstanding balance to $520 million.
The company also amended its March 2016 agreement with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. for the release of 140 Sears property that were part of a “ring-fence arrangement” in exchange for $407 million of contributions connected with its pension plans. The ring-fencing earmarked the assets to help satisfy its PBGC obligations and secured them from the claws of creditors in case there had been a bankruptcy filing. The payment of $407 million “provides funding relief from contributions to the pension plans for the next two years,” Sears said. The company plans to raise the $407 million through the sale of the properties and possibly via financing secured by the assets. If certain properties are financed, Sears said financing eventually would be repaid from proceeds of the sale of the real estate over the next two years.
Edward S. Lampert, Sears’ chairman and chief executive officer said, “While the lower interest rate environment has had a significant, unfavorable impact on the pension plans’ funding, Sears Holdings has demonstrated its commitment to honoring this obligation.” The chairman also noted that upon closing the PBGC transaction — expected in three months — the company would have “financial flexibility” and support its commitment to honor its pension obligations. In addition, Sears is required to make a $37 million quarterly payment to the pension plans next month, and there is a $20 million supplemental payment due in the second quarter of next year.