Private equity doesn’t have much interest in Sears

Sears Corp. SHLD made headlines yesterday by announcing plans to close up to 120 Sears and Kmart locations, following weaker-than-expected holiday sales. It seems that the retailer’s plan to partially convert its physical locations into something akin to distribution centers for online shoppers hasn’t quite worked out too well.

My initial thought was that Sears should now be ripe for private equity firms, until I started calling around and no one seemed to even be looking (let alone thinking about bidding).

“I would not go near it as an ongoing retail concept; core retail brands are weak and have no reason for being anymore,” said one consumer-focused private equity investor. “They might be able to sell off some of the good brands like Craftsman and Lands End, but I’d imagine Sears would only be interesting as a total liquidation/real estate play.”

It also doesn’t help that the company’s debt-load is larger than its market cap, which means that any additional leverage could push Sears over the edge.

There is, of course, a (remote) possibility that the investor apathy I witnessed was a reflection of holiday-week vacations, and that some of today’s beachcombers will be knee-deep in Sears financials come next Tuesday. But, if the lack of interest is real, Sears will have to look elsewhere for its white knight.

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