Sears buys itself more time by extending debt and seeking new financing

  • Sears is working with both existing and new lenders to push back the maturity of a $400 million term loan.
  • Additionally, the department store chain plans to obtain a new credit facility of as much as $607 million, to help fund its $407 million pension contribution and for other "general corporate purposes."
  • Sears' stock has dropped more than 56 percent this year.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Sears Holdings announced late Tuesday it's extended the terms of a $400 million loan to 2019 and also is planning to secure additional borrowing to cover upcoming pension payments.

The steps buy the troubled parent of Sears and Kmart more time as it works to make good on its obligations and turn around its business, even as sales shrink at a double-digit pace.

The department store chain is working with both existing and new lenders to push back the maturity of the $400 million term loan to January 2019, from June 2018, Sears said in a securities filing. The company will also have the option to extend the maturity date by another six months, to July 2019.

Additionally, Sears plans to obtain a new credit facility of as much as $607 million, through two separate tranches, to help fund its $407 million pension contribution and for other "general corporate purposes."

"Sears appears to be working very hard to prove that the company has the liquidity to pay their vendors," Susquehanna analyst Bill Dreher wrote in a note to clients.

"We look forward to learning what 'new' investors would actually be willing to lend to Sears, as well as credible details on management's goal of positive adjusted EBITDA in FY18," Dreher said.

Sears has said it expects to reach positive adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization next year. The company's latest initiatives include rolling out smaller-format stores and working with major U.S. real estate investment trusts, such as General Growth Properties, Simon Property Group and Seritage, to redevelop existing locations.

Seritage, a REIT spinoff of some of Sears' best real estate, just announced last week plans to issue preferred shares that will allow the company to "fund its redevelopment pipeline."

In a bid to return to profitability, Sears has shuttered roughly 330 "underperforming" stores so far this year. Another 100 locations (both Sears and Kmart-branded) are slated to close by the end of the fiscal fourth quarter.

Just last month, Sears struck an agreement with guardians of its pension fund — the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. — to allow for the sale of 140 Sears properties, giving the company more financial flexibility. In exchange, Sears must pay $407 million to the plan.

In unlocking about 140 stores from a so-called ring-fence agreement with the PBGC, the hope for Sears is the company will be able to secure enough cash from asset sales to repay its newest credit facility in time.

"Looking ahead, we continue to explore alternatives with respect to our debt maturities to meaningfully reduce cash interest payments and provide the Company greater flexibility," Sears CFO Rob Riecker said in a statement Tuesday.

"We remain focused on improving our performance by diversifying the Company's revenue streams through third-party partnerships for several of our businesses ... and maintaining extreme cost discipline in light of continued headwinds across the retail sector," he added.

Sears shares were up 1 percent midday Wednesday. The stock has dropped more than 56 percent this year.