Sears narrows loss, sales fall for 24th quarter

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[November 30, 2017]   By Sruthi Ramakrishnan

(Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp <SHLD.O> cut its third quarter loss by almost $200 million compared to a year ago, the company said on Thursday, benefiting from lower costs of operations as it shut scores of its Kmart and Sears outlets.

The company, whose warning of the risk of bankruptcy earlier this year was symbolic of the troubles of America's biggest traditional retailers, racked up its 24th straight quarter of falling sales, reporting a double-digit drop in comparable sales at both Sears and Kmart.

Sears shares, which have more than halved in value this year, took comfort from the reduction in losses, surging 34 percent in pre-market to be by far the day's biggest gainer.

"The improvement is reflective of the success of the strategic priorities we outlined earlier this year," the firm's billionaire owner, chairman and chief executive Eddie Lampert said in a statement.

He said it streamlined operations, reduced inventory and minimized operating expenses.

Once the largest U.S. retailer, Sears in March flagged doubts that it could continue as a going concern as it suffered from the Amazon-fuelled shift in shoppers from the mall to the web.

It has rationalized hard while striking brand licensing deals and promoting its shopper loyalty program in efforts to turn itself around.

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A Sears logo is seen at a store in Schaumburg, Illinois, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

The company's net loss attributable to shareholders was $558 million in the third quarter, in line with guidance of $525-$595 million given earlier this month but down from $748 million a year earlier.

The company said it had made more than $270 million from sales of real estate and other assets in the third quarter, as well as an additional $167 million after the close of the quarter.

It used the proceeds to pay down debt; long-term debt and obligations fell to $2.03 billion at the end of the quarter from $2.41 billion three months earlier.

Sears said this month it had struck a deal that will help it reduce contributions to its pension plan for the next two years and monetize real estate that had formerly been protected.

(Additional reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; editing by Savio D'Souza and Patrick Graham)

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