Earlier this week, we learned that Sears Holdings Corporation is borrowing $400 million to pay its bills from a hedge fund owned by its own CEO. Yet experts look at this transaction from the outside and wonder: what does it tell us that the company’s own CEO has stopped offering it unsecured credit?
As consumers, the future prospects of Sears shouldn’t matter all that much to us: if they’re offering nice deals on fridges or flannel shirts, then we shop there. If they aren’t selling much of anything that interests us, then we won’t. People in the investment biz have more important questions, though: they wonder whether Sears is going to survive the next few years, and whether Lampert’s loan to the company is part of an elaborate scheme to cash in on his investment in the end, even as ordinary investors and Sears employees lose out.
What the $400 loan tells us is that the company has problems with cash flow: it doesn’t just need to pay current employees, buy merchandise, and pay rent on its leased stores, but the company also has plenty of other expenses: debt service, pension contributions, and improvements to their stores and online selling channels. Those 5-minute counter and geolocation apps don’t program themselves, you know.
Experts think that by borrowing cash and selling or leasing real estate, Sears should be able to survive for another few years. What happens then?
Sears Loan Highlights Pressure on Cash [Wall Street Journal]
by Laura Northrup via Consumerist
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If your household still receives a daily or Sunday newspaper, take pity on your neighborhood’s paper carrier. It’s hard work to haul the ad-stuffed Thanksgiving editions of the paper to subscribers’ doorsteps. Still, that probably isn’t what papers like the Chicago Tribune and Detroit Free Press had in mind when they announced that they’ll be charging subscribers an extra dollar or two for the privilege of receiving a bunch of ads.
No. We are not making this up. Jim Romenesko has the story, and these two Midwestern papers probably aren’t the only ones that have thought of it so far.
The Tribune frames the Thanksgiving paper as a “Premium Issue,” for which they will charge “an additional fee up to $2.00″ to subscribers’ bills. Again, they’re calling this paper a “premium issue” even though the majority of the extra content is advertisements. That companies pay the newspaper for.
The Detroit Free Press, meanwhile, wants to charge subscribers the newsstand rate, which subscribers tell Romenesko is $1 more than the price subscribers would normally pay for that extra-large Thanksgiving paper.
— Steve Friess (@SteveFriess) September 18, 2014
The good news for subscribers who like to complain (and you’re reading Consumerist, so that’s probably you) is that both papers say that they’ll waive the fee for any subscribers who notice the problem and call the paper up to complain. So that’s nice. Everyone else, apparently, is on their own.
DEAR NEWSPAPERS: SUBSCRIBERS DON’T WANT TO PAY EXTRA FOR BLACK FRIDAY COUPONS [Romenesko] (Thanks, Joe!)
by Laura Northrup via Consumerist