October 10, 2018 / 2:44 AM / 2 months ago

Sears hires advisers for bankruptcy filing ahead of debt payment: WSJ

(Reuters) - Debt-laden retailer Sears Holdings Corp SHLD.O has hired advisers to prepare for a possible bankruptcy that could come ahead of a debt payment due next week, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing sources.

FILE PHOTO: A Sears department store is seen in Austin, Texas, U.S., January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Khursheed

M-III Partners LLC, a boutique advisory firm, has been working on the potential filing in the past few weeks and Sears continues to discuss other options and could still avert an in-court restructuring, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the situation.

Sears, which has been losing money for years, has $134 million in debt due on Monday.

A Sears special committee is weighing a prior offer from Chief Executive Eddie Lampert to acquire the retailer’s Kenmore appliances brand and its home services business for as much as $480 million. Sears warned it could go out of business as it waits for approval from the committee on the deal.

Lampert, who also runs hedge fund ESL Investments Inc, has said the company should take steps to reduce its debt load to $1.2 billion from $5.6 billion. Lampert and his hedge fund own about 50 percent of Sears.

However, Lampert wants to restructure the debt without filing for bankruptcy protection, because he views bankruptcy as risky for retailers, the paper said.

Lampert also expects that Sears could get more value for its assets by selling them while it is a going concern, the newspaper added.

Sears, which was the world’s largest retailer in the 1960s, has been struggling in recent decades, in the face of declining foot traffic at its brick-and-mortar stores as online shopping gains popularity.

In May, Sears said it plans to shut 72 locations by the end of third quarter to stem losses in the face of deepening financial distress.

Sears has closed nearly 400 stores since last year. It operates a network of stores with 866 full-line and specialty retail stores in the United States as of Aug. 4, operating through Kmart and Sears.

Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

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