Sears inks $200 million credit line

Sears Holdings (SHLD) has landed a fresh line of credit, valued at $200 million, from its CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund, according to a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On July 13, Lampert’s ESL Partners entered into a short-term line of credit loans, which carry a maturity date of 151 days and a fixed interest rate of 9.75 percent per year, Sears said.

“This facility is intended to provide the Company with the flexibility to generate additional liquidity on an as-needed basis,” Sears CFO Rob Riecker said in a statement.

“This adjustment to our capital structure demonstrates that Sears Holdings will continue to take actions to generate liquidity and manage our business while meeting all of our financial obligations.”

Sears’ stock surged 9 percent higher Monday morning following this news. Shares are now up more than 32 percent from one month ago. This, compared to a loss of nearly 40 percent over the past 12 months.

In 2017, Sears has been trimming its real-estate portfolio — shuttering unprofitable stores — and making moves, such as opening smaller locations that only sell mattresses and appliances, to stay afloat.

Dwindling foot traffic across American malls is dragging many department stores down with it.

Earlier this year, media shy CEO Lampert sat down for an interview with the Chicago Tribune where he said the retailer is “fighting like hell” to battle negative headlines and pessimism regarding Sears’ ability to continue.

Meanwhile, much of Lampert’s ESL portfolio today consists of retail companies, particularly Sears Holdings, which is also the fund’s largest holding. Lampert founded ESL in 1988 with an initial outside investment of $28 million.

Importantly, just last week Lampert said ESL Partners, along with Fairholme Capital, is considering a deal with struggling Sears Canada.Sears Canada, which was spun off from Sears Holdings in 2012, is currently looking to restructure itself under bankruptcy protection.

Sears has also expressed some doubt about its future.

“Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Sears said in an annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year.

Cash injections from Lampert’s hedge fund and his heavy ownership of the chain’s unsecured debt continues to convince some investors that Sears will avoid filing Chapter 11.

Lauren Thomas

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