Rumblings that ESL Investments and Cyrus Capital Partners are partnering for a bid for bankrupt Sears Holdings Corp. sent shares of the retailer up 18 percent.
Those rumblings first surfaced about a week after the retailer filed its voluntary Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy court protection. ESL is the hedge fund run by Edward S. Lampert, who is also chairman of Sears. Lampert has been looking for an investment partner to help him with a bid for the retailer. There was also speculation that Cyrus had been in discussions to provide junior debtor-in-possession financing of $300 million, but then talks seemed to have stalled earlier this month.
Cyrus already held some of Sears’ debt at the time of the filing, and on Tuesday at the last minute managed to edge out Great American Capital Partners as the junior DIP financier with a $350 million loan at a better interest rate.
Shares of Sears, which now trade on the over-the-counter exchange, on Wednesday closed at 36 cents. Intraday trading went as high as 44 cents on the rumor of a joint bid from Cyrus and ESL. That’s because the two can make a credit bid for Sears, meaning that the dollar value of their credit claims can be used as part of the overall offer. Credit bids also mean less cash is needed for the overall offer. If ultimately approved by the bankruptcy court, and provided the offer is not outbid at auction, the credit claims would be converted to equity in a reorganized Sears. A successful going-concern bid would result in the saving of American jobs connected with the corporate office and 505 store locations.
Furthermore, ESL has already said it plans to credit bid. The hedge fund has been circling potential investment partners for weeks. The expectation is that stalking-horse bids for Sears are due around Dec. 15. Sears needs to move fast to find a buyer since court filings indicate that the retailer would run out of cash mid-January, and would need additional incremental financing of at least $239 million from Jan. 19 through Feb. 16 to actually complete the close on the sale of the company.
Spokesmen for Sears and ESL declined comment. Cyrus Capital did not return a request for comment.