Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD) Stock: All Debt, No Hope

Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) rallied last week on news of fresh cash infusions. But investors should not be drawn in by this speculative rally in SHLD stock.

Sears SHLD

Sears has had plenty of time to fix its situation. After more than five years of watching revenues get slashed, and watching Sears stock lose as much as 90% of its value, it’s pretty clear that the company cannot execute a turnaround. Sears’ third quarter featured a $748 million loss compared to a $454 million loss in 2015. Comparable-store sales for Sears fell 10% while Kmart stores suffered a 4.4% decline.

These are not the kinds of numbers you expect to see in a “turnaround.”

On Dec. 28, the company announced it was closing 30 more Sears/Kmart stores. These locations will be in addition to closures and aggressive streamlining that have already taken place. This week, SHLD announced an additional 150 store closures.

Store levels have declined from 4,000 in 2011 to 1,500 today, and profitability still isn’t there. If closing nearly two-thirds of your stores hasn’t weeded out the “underperformers,” there’s a problem that closures won’t solve.

E-Commerce Is a Problem

One of Sears’ biggest issues is inherent to the industry in which it operates. Large department stores like SHLD are under fire from e-commerce commerce portals, specifically, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).

Macy’s Inc (NYSE:M), which recently was considered a healthy company within the industry, is closing 15% of its stores and recently announced a 2.1% decline in November/December sales relative to a year ago. Despite the fact that Macy’s recorded a double-digit gain in its online business, expected diluted earnings for the year were reduced to a range of $2.95-$3.10 from $3.15-$3.40.J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE:JCP) has had its own problems.

Even CVS Health Corp (NYSE:CVS) is closing stores as part of a plan to manage labor expenses and create $3 billion in savings over the next fiveyears.

It’s no coincidence that while all these physical stores are suffering, Amazon is throwing up big numbers. While I don’t believe physical stores will ever disappear, e-commerce has definitely eaten their their market share. AMZN has more than doubled its revenue since 2011 while Macy’s has battled just to maintain growth (succeeding on the revenue side, but not in earnings). The National Retail Federation forecasts that non-store sales growth (an estimated 7%-10%) for the holiday season will drastically outpace overall holiday sales growth (3.4% estimate).

This paints a very grim picture for those that aren’t well-equipped to stave off the march of e-commerce — including Sears.

How Long Can SHLD Last?

As of the third quarter, Sears has $3.7 billion in long-term debt. SHLD stock holders are increasingly concerned about how SHLD will service that debt in the next year. This will prove especially difficult considering how Sears loses capital. Since last July, the firm has burned through 85% of its cash. The $258 million on hand won’t even come close to covering the fourth quarter’s estimated losses of $2.91 per share. That will equate to $311.37 million based on Q3 diluted shares outstanding.

Without the cash to cover those projected losses, how can SHLD possibly service its debt obligations?

This leads us to Sears’ new round of financing moves.

Under the conditions of Sears’ $1.97 billion revolving credit facility, the retailer was able to borrow about $174 million more. That wasn’t enough,so Sears CEO Eddie Lampert used affiliates of his own ESL Investments to put together financing.

The new $200 million loan can technically be extended by an additional $300 million credit line if needed, but that only leaves the company with $1.03 billion of current and “available” cash. If the final quarter does involve another big loss (seems likely) then they’re down to $718.63 million for 2017 ($1.03 billion – $311.37 million, if you use estimates).

In the same week, Sears announced it secured another loan from ESL Investments affiliates, backed by 46 mortgaged properties, in the value of $500 million. This transaction should bring SHLD’s available capital to $2.118 billion.

Moody’s analyst Christina Boni estimates the firm will need to raise $1.5 billion to survive 2017.

In the same week, Sears announced it secured another loan from ESL Investments affiliates, backed by 46 mortgaged properties, in the value of $500 million.

Sears also announced last week that it would sell its Craftsman brand. The buyer, Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. (NYSE:SWK), will pay $900 million for the tool brand. As part of the deal, SHLD will continue selling Craftsman tools under a licensing agreement for 15 years. The company also announced that it has secured another loan from ESL Investments inc. affiliates. This loan is backed by 46 mortgaged properties in the value of $500 million.

If you factor in the fourth quarter’s estimated losses of $2.91 a share, or $311.37 million (based on third-quarter shares outstanding), capital available for 2017 will fall to around $2.02 billion. So there you have it. Sears will most likely survive another year. It only cost them their tool brand. I broke it down in a chart for those who like it simple.

Sears Likely Capital Situation
Current Cash $258,000,000
Credit Facility $174,000,000
ESL Affiliates $500,000,000
Black and Decker Deal $900,000,000
Additional ESL $500,000,000
Total Projected Cash $2,332,000,000
Est. Loss for Q4 ($311,370,000)
Total Cash Available $2,020,630,000

Don’t Invest in Debt. Don’t Invest in Sears Stock.

Selling off your prime assets to keep things afloat is not a good selling point for investors. Regardless of royalty-free licensing, Craftsman being in the hands of Black & Decker means you can buy the goods outside of Sears. This can only have a negative impact on sales for SHLD. The company can’t handle anymore declines in sales.

If you add in the tremendous debt that is being added to this unprofitable company, Sears stock becomes very unappealing.

Things might be different if there was some income to speak of, but there’s no point in buying a stock that’s hemorrhaging money and slowly liquidating everything it needs to survive. It seems that to become profitable, Sears will have to become extremely small. If they actually pull it off, they’ll have run the balance sheet into the ground to get there. Already running a deficit of over $3.3 billion, anything SHLD actually makes will likely go into servicing debt.

It is far better to invest in companies like Home Depot Inc (NYSE:HD) that can allocate capital to investing in new growth, rather than nursing fatal wounds.

As of this writing, David Butler did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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