Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) is still an awful retailer, yet shares rose by 13% or so on Tuesday after a report opined that Sears could be worth more than $100 per share due to its vast real estate holdings. The reality is that we have heard this story a dozen times in what is about a decade now. One Wall Street analyst is canning the report and maintaining a very cautious stance despite the huge gains.
Credit Suisse’s Gary Balter reiterated his Underperform rating on Sears. As a real slap to Eddie Lampert, Balter’s price target is down all the way to $20.00 per share. This is the lowest official price target on Wall Street and implies that shareholders buying Sears now could face losses of up about 65% if his target comes true.
After closing at $56.64, its 52-week trading range is $38.40 to $68.77. Sears shares were as low as about $30 in the peak selling of late 2008 and again in late 2011 and early 2012. Again, Balter’s target price is $20 per share on the surface and around $38 in the mid-point of a value range. He believes that Tuesday’s rally was simply an extraordinary short squeeze.
Sears rallied as one of the front page owners of the stock put out a bullish 139 page analysis that purports to an asset value of well over $100 versus our midpoint of the range value, using more conservative assumptions, of $38, which is before ongoing operating losses. The material differences lie in four main buckets, real estate values, the value of the internet and warranty businesses, the liquidation value of working capital and the lack of inclusion of continued multi hundred-million dollar cash flow losses while the business operates.
In short, Gary Balter is calling the recent rally a case of seriously misguided fiction rather than fact. We would point out that this short squeeze call may have some serious merit because Tuesday’s gain was on a mere 3.77 million shares. Sears had more than 15 million shares in its short interest on the last reporting date, and that was the largest short interest in more than a year. That short interest is so large that it represents almost 17 days to cover.