Sears hires advisers for bankruptcy filing

Sears may be preparing to file for bankruptcy ahead of a Monday debt payment

Sears faces US$134 million of debt maturing on October 15, and Lampert's ESL Investments said in a filing last month that the borrowings coming due were among those creating "significant near-term liquidity constraints" for the company.

Sears is considering filing for bankruptcy protection as soon as this week as it faces a large debt repayment on Monday, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Unnamed sources told the Journal that employees from New York-based M-III Partners have been working on the potential filing for weeks, indicating that the company's bankruptcy could be imminent.

Sears stock dropped below the $1 threshold at the end of September. The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Barron's.

Sears shares were down 27 per cent at 43 cents. While the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) is up 6.5% year to date, and fellow department stores like Macy's (M), Kohl's (KSS), and Nordstrom (JWN) have climbed more than 30% since the start of the year, Sears has lagged-and how. Talks are under way to arrange debtor-in-possession financing for a bankruptcy filing that could come in the next few days, the source added. Sears, meanwhile, continues to evaluate other options that could still avert a trip to Bankruptcy Court.

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Edward Lampert, the hedge-fund manager who is Sears's chairman, chief executive, largest shareholder and biggest creditor, could rescue the company, as he has done in the past by making the payment. Even after several rounds of store closures across the country in recent years, the holding company still operates around 500 Sears stores and 360 Kmart stores. When Lampert took over as head of the company five years ago, there were 2,000 stories.

Lampert - Sears's largest shareholder and creditor and the owner of the hedge-fund ESL Investments - asked creditors last month to refinance $1.1 billion in debt before the October 15 payment, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Where we were: Sears's struggles are nothing new, and have been an overhang for some real estate owners.

In August, the board said it was weighing an offer from Lampert that Sears should sell its Kenmore brand and said ESL might offer to buy it if it was willing to sell. While much of his focus revolved around Sears's online presence, upkeep on physical stores has diminished. Lampert and his hedge fund own about 50 percent of Sears.

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