Even Sears Claims Tax Reform Benefits, Along With Declining Same-Store Sales and Revenues

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Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) is one of those dying companies that just refuses to accept defeat. The company made a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) signaling details of private exchange offers for notes that were addressed in January, but the struggling department store operator also gave an update to its fiscal fourth quarter.

Sears did note that the retail environment was challenging during the fourth quarter of 2017, but the company now expects to deliver another quarter of improvement in adjusted EBITDA. The company’s new adjusted EBITDA range was put between a gain of $10 million and a loss of $10 million. That compared to negative adjusted EBITDA of $61 million from the fourth quarter of 2016.

The big continued decline in revenues remains an issue as total revenues of $4.4 billion for this fourth quarter compare with $6.1 billion from a year earlier. Total comparable store sales fell by a sharp 15.6% in the fourth quarter. That was shown by a drop of 12.2% at Kmart stores and 18.1% at Sears. The fourth quarter of 2017 results also reflected the 14-week period ended February 3, 2018, rather than the fourth quarter of 2016 having just 13 weeks.

Unfortunately, this is very far short of what most other retailers and department stores are facing. Still, Sears is citing the annual improvement reflecting the restructuring actions from 2017. This included closing unprofitable stores.

Sears’ SEC filing did outline net income expectations due to a benefit from tax reform. The filing said:

In addition, we expect net income attributable to Sears Holdings’ shareholders of between $140 million and $240 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, which is inclusive of a non-cash tax benefit of approximately $445 million to $495 million related to tax reform, as well as a non-cash impairment charge related to the Sears trade name of between $50 million and $100 million. This compares to a net loss attributable to Sears Holdings’ shareholders of $607 million in the prior year fourth quarter, which was inclusive of a non-cash impairment charge related to the Sears trade name of $381 million.

Sears is one of those companies where nothing seems to work right. It keeps closing underperforming stores, and its same-store sales trends never seem to do any better. Now look at Sears revenue trends over time through that dual closure and underperformance:

  • 2013 revenues $39.8 billion
  • 2014 revenues $36.2 billion
  • 2015 revenues $31.2 billion
  • 2016 revenues $25.1 billion
  • 2017 revenues $22.1 billion

If we take the $4.4 billion in revenues for the fourth quarter and add them up with the other three quarters, then Sears would have annualized 2018 revenues of roughly $16.7 billion.

24/7 Wall St. has warned its readers over and over that this bull market, even with the recent pullback changing sentiment, just has too many good companies turning in great numbers and having solid news to chase the ugly duckling companies like this. Sure, some will turnaround, but if they are doing crummy in a great economy then how well can they do in a bad economy when they have to really outperform against competitors? The lesson is that investors do not need to pay to eat crow when there is an endless supply of free meat and potatoes.

Shares of Sears did briefly trade up more than 10% in the pre-market trading, but Sears was last seen trading up about 2% at $2.36 on Thursday morning. Sears has a 52-week range of $1.99 to $14.32.