Shares of Sears Holdings Corp. continue to decline after the company posted first-quarter results on Monday.
The shares fell 19.4 percent to close at $29.52 in Nasdaq trading on Wednesday, with nearly 7.5 million shares changing hands. In intraday trading, the low so far was $28.86. The last time shares of Sears were trading in the $28 to $29 range was in October 2014. A few weeks before, in late September, shares had been trading in the $24-a-share range.
The sell-off could be related to its new real estate investment trust as investors ponder what’s left of Sears Holdings and whether it will ever return to profitability.
On Tuesday, Sears began the $1.57 billion rights offering for its new REIT, Seritage Growth Properties. That offering is expected to generate cash for Sears, as well as have the REIT hold 325 of the group’s better Sears and Kmart locations. The $1.57 billion combined with the proceeds from the previously announced joint ventures is expected to give Sears an additional $2.6 billion in cash for use to continue investing in its Shop Your Way loyalty platform.
Following the completion of the REIT, Sears will still own about 423 real estate sites. Some of the concern since Monday has been that there will be fewer assets left for the financial engineering that Sears chairman and chief executive officer Edward S. Lampert has been utilizing to extract value from the company. He has already spun off Lands’ End and completed rights offerings for other properties, such as Sears Canada.
The big question still is what will happen to the core brick-and-mortar store base. While Lampert has been touting the growth of Shop Your Way, there’s been no growth at its traditional Sears and Kmart operation. For all the talk about how Shop Your Way members can buy online and pick up at a store, Sears will still have to prove — as well as show some profit — that consumers have a need for the Sears and Kmart nameplates.
Sears on Monday posted a narrower first-quarter loss at $303 million, or $2.85 a diluted share, for the three months ended May 2 compared with a net loss of $402 million, or $3.79, a year ago. Net sales fell 25.4 percent to $5.88 billion from $7.88 billion, as comparable-store sales slid 10.9 percent. By nameplate, comps at Sears domestic stores declined 14.5 percent and at Kmart decreased 7 percent.