Sears to sell, spin off stores after $2.4-billion quarterly loss

Sears Holdings Corp. posted a $2.4-billion loss in its fourth quarter but appeased investors by planning to sell or spin off many of its stores to boost liquidity.

The Hoffman Estates, Ill., company reported a loss of $22.63 per share in the quarter that ended Jan. 28, from $374 million, or $3.43 a share, in the same quarter a year earlier -- results that Chief Executive Lou D’Ambrosio deemed “unacceptable.”  The company operates Kmart and Sears stores.

But on Thursday, the company announced plans that could raise nearly $800 million.

In one arrangement worth up to $500 million, Sears said it would separate its Hometown and Outlet brands, as well as some hardware stores, through a rights offering.

Separately, for $270 million, Sears said it would sell 11 stores to real estate company General Growth Properties in a deal expected to close within the next 60 days. None of the stores are in California.

The initiatives helped Sears stock move up 17%, or $9, to roughly $71 in afternoon trading in New York.

Sears said in December that it would close up to 120 stores after struggling through yet another difficult holiday season.

In its fourth quarter, hit hard by high cotton and fuel prices and declining demand for consumer electronics and appliances, Sears’ revenue slumped 4% to $12.5 billion. And unseasonably warm weather dampened outwear sales from the company’s Lands’ End brand.

Same-store sales at U.S. locations open more than a year slid 4.1% at Sears and 2.7% at Kmart over the quarter.

D’Ambrosio said that, moving forward, the company would try to leverage technology to better connect with customers who are increasingly using smartphones to shop.

“Our media and shopping channels are blurring,” he said in a conference call with analysts. “We believe the retailers who best use technology to integrate the customer experience across all channels will be the ones who win.”


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