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Sears warns of ‘substantial doubt’ about company's future

March 21, 2017

Sears Holdings Corp. on Tuesday acknowledged “substantial doubt” about its ability to keep operating, raising fresh concerns about a company that has lost more than $10 billion in recent years.

The retailer added so-called going-concern language to its latest annual report filing, suggesting that weak earnings have cast a pall on its future as a business.

Sears operates two local department stores in the Indianapolis area, in Castleton and Greenwood. It also operates two Kmart stores in Indianapolis, as well as Kmart stores in Anderson and Elwood.

“Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based company said in the filing. But the company added that its comeback plan may help alleviate the concerns, “satisfying our estimated liquidity needs 12 months from the issuance of the financial statements.”

The disclosure comes after more optimistic signs from the company, which has been working on a turnaround under CEO Eddie Lampert. Sears posted a smaller loss than predicted in the fourth quarter, and it has pledged to lower its debt burden and cut annual expenses by at least $1 billion.

Lampert, a hedge fund manager who is also Sears’s biggest investor, aims to reduce debt and pension obligations by $1.5 billion. The CEO has helped keep the ailing retailer afloat by offering more than $1 billion of assistance, including a $500 million loan facility announced in January.

As part of its comeback plan, the 131-year-old company had closed stores, sold real estate and offloaded businesses. Earlier this month, the department-store chain completed the sale of its Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. for about $900 million.

“While our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists, we want to be very clear that we’re taking decisive actions to mitigate that doubt,” Howard Riefs, a Sears spokesman, said in an emailed statement.

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