Sears Holdings posts loss for fifth straight quarter

Markets Reuters

Retailer Sears Holdings Corp reported its fifth straight quarterly loss and said there was no guarantee when it would return to profitability.

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Total revenue fell 14.3 percent to $5.03 billion in the third quarter ended Oct. 29, hit by lower demand at its Kmart and Sears outlets. Sears has not posted an increase in quarterly sales in the past five years.

The company has slashed costs, sold off assets and taken on debt from Chief Executive Edward Lampert's hedge fund and other investors to establish a profitable business model built around a smaller store base, online services and a loyalty program, with little results to show.

"We cannot guarantee when we will return to profitability, but it is our intention to do so as soon as possible," Chief Financial Officer Jason Hollar said in a presentation.

Once the largest U.S. retailer, Sears has lost its standing as customers move to online shopping or rivals such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc .

The company said on Thursday it reduced the size of its pharmacy business, which operates in many of its Kmart stores, in the third quarter, and would seek to provide pharmacy services through its "Shop Your Way" loyalty plan.

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Sales at stores open at least a year fell 7.4 percent, due to weak sales in several categories including apparel, grocery and consumer electronics.

Net loss attributable to Sears' shareholders swelled to $748 million, or $6.99 per share, from $454 million, or $4.26 per share, a year earlier.

The company said it would continue to cut costs by seeking alternatives for its real estate portfolio, the Sears Home Services business and the unit housing Kenmore appliance, Craftsman tools and DieHard vehicle battery brands.

Lampert, unable to find buyers or partners for the two businesses, offered last week to buy a bigger stake in Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Inc , if it entered into a partnership for the brands.

Sears' shares were unchanged in premarket trading. Up to Wednesday's close, they had fallen 41 percent this year.

(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)