Bruce Berkowitz’s faith in the value play at Sears Holdings Corp. seems to have been renewed — and the struggling retailer’s stock price is benefiting.
Berkowitz’s Fairholme Capital Management is already the company’s second-largest shareholder and is digging in for more.
Over Thursday, Friday and Monday, Fairholme bought an additional 286,600 shares of Sears for at total of $2.3 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
That brings the stake beneficially owned by Berkowitz, a Sears board member, to 28.8 million shares.
And it’s part of a trend of insider buying that has the market buzzing and pushed Sears shares up 19.8 percent to $11.30 on Tuesday after a 10.9 percent gain on Monday.
Last week, Edward Lampert, chief executive officer of Sears and its largest stockholder, spent $4.2 million on another 525,936 shares in the retailer, boosting the stake he controls directly to 31.8 million shares.
And Berkowitz previously reported buying 613,900 Sears shares for $5 million last week.
That’s a lot of buying for a company that warned in its annual report this month that, “Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
The retailer has said it believes it will be able to satisfy its cash needs for the upcoming year.
Under Lampert, Sears has worked to pivot to an asset-lite business model that has it focused more on his Shop Your Way membership program as stores are shuttered and businesses, such as Lands’ End, have been spun off.
But the market has been tough and critics have said Lampert failed to spend enough to support the business.
In January, Berkowitz told his fund’s shareholders: “Focusing on tangible assets has served us over many years, but most believe Sears to be the exception to the rule. Disruptive technologies; near-zero cost of capital; and few, if any, legacy obligations provide young competitors with great advantages over old-line operators.”
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