Reuters

(Reuters)

Report: Sears to Lay Off 5K Employees, Close 100 Stores

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Sears Holdings Corp is shuttering more than 100 stores and laying off at least 5,457 employees, investor website Seeking Alpha reported on Thursday, indicating the struggling retailer may be stepping up store closures.

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Sears said in August it had closed 96 stores in the six months since February and planned to close a total of 130 underperforming stores during the full fiscal year. It added at the time that it may shutter additional stores beyond the 130 target.

Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite declined to comment on the number of planned closures, saying the company would provide an update when it reports quarterly earnings next month. Reducing operations to the best performing stores is key to Sears' revival strategy, he said.

"While this has resulted in store closures where appropriate - decisions that we do not take lightly - we continue to have a substantial nationwide footprint with a presence in many of the top malls in the country," Brathwaite said.

Sears shares rose 5.9 percent to $36.46 on Nasdaq at mid-afternoon.

Since August the company has moved to close at least 46 Kmart stores, 30 Sears department stores and 31 Sears Auto Centers, Seeking Alpha said, citing local media reports and liquidation notices. (http://bit.ly/1z0RVyd)

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Sears is closing stores to cut costs as it shifts to an "asset-light" business model. The company lost nearly $1 billion during the first half of the fiscal year in a downturn that has worried some vendors and prompted a series of moves by the company to generate cash.

On Monday Sears said it would raise as much as $625 million through an unsecured loan and equity warrants, about half of which will be purchased by Chief Executive Eddie Lampert and his hedge fund. It was the company's third fundraising in a little over month.

It also said on Monday that it would lease seven stores to discount fashion chain Primark for an undisclosed amount, reflecting its effort to use generate rental income from better performing retailers.

Sears had 1,077 Kmart stores and 793 Sears stores in the United States as of Aug. 2. The company had 226,000 U.S. employees as of Feb. 1. (Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore and Nathan Layne in Chicago; Editing by Kirti Pandey and Richard Chang)