Sears Holdings Corp. plans to spin off its Lands’ End Inc. unit, giving investors a piece of a profitable clothing brand amid almost nine years of market- lagging returns for the department-store chain’s shares.
The distribution is subject to the approval of the board and other conditions, Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears said today in a statement. The unit’s registration filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today didn’t say how many Lands’ End shares Sears investors would receive.
Edward Lampert, Sears’s chairman, chief executive officer and largest shareholder, is breaking off for investors a unit that has remained profitable while the department-store chain started losing money. Sears shares slid about 57 percent since March, 28, 2005, when Lampert merged Kmart Holding Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co., through yesterday, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 52 percent in that time.
“It’s a good thing for shareholders,” Robert Passikoff, president of consultant Brand Keys in New York, said in a phone interview today. “Land’s End, the brand itself, was weakened by its association with Sears. Folks see Sears as being more downscale, cheaper. Land’s End could regain some of its brand shine by being off on its own.”
Sears rose 1.2 percent to $50.59 at 10:34 a.m. in New York.
Lands’ End, founded in 1963 and acquired by Sears in June 2002 for about $1.9 billion, said in its registration statement that it had net income of $49.8 million on revenue of $1.6 billion in its fiscal 2012.
While that performance is better than Sears’s $930 million loss last year, Lands’ End’s net income has dropped 63 percent since 2008 as revenue slid 4.2 percent.
Lampert has been selling and spinning off Sears assets as 27 straight quarterly sales declines sap Sears’s cash pile. Sears said in October it was considering separating Lands’ End and its auto center unit. Lampert spun off Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores Inc. last year in a move that raised $346.5 million from a rights offering, and a $100 million cash dividend paid by Hometown.
Sears said today that it expects the Lands’ End spinoff to be a tax-free distribution to shareholders and didn’t mention a dividend for Sears.
The retailer said last month that it had $607 million in cash as of Nov. 2 and that it expects to generate $2 billion of liquidity in the current fiscal year, up from an earlier forecast of $500 million.
The company has been struggling since the merger of Kmart and Sears. The retailer’s dwindling resources are making it harder for Sears to improve the almost 2,500 outdated stores that have contributed to its loss of customers.
Separating businesses allows Sears to “become a more focused company that is easier to understand and manage,” the retailer said in an online slide presentation last month.
Sears last month said its third-quarter net loss widened to $534 million, or $5.03 a share, from $498 million, or $4.70, its sixth consecutive loss.
Lampert cut his stake in the company below 50 percent this month to meet redemption requests from his hedge-fund clients.
For more on the retail sector, see “Boutique Appeal.”