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Sears may separate Lands' End, Auto Center as sales slide

A sign for the Sears department store is seen at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia, January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing
A sign for the Sears department store is seen at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia, January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing

(Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp is considering splitting off its Lands' End clothing and Sears Auto Center businesses, after another quarter of declining same-store sales.

The company's shares rose 7 percent, as investors assessed the latest attempt by the operator of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain to turn around its business.

Analysts said recent moves to dispose of assets, while perhaps negative in the long term, could reassure creditors and vendors and help to ensure sufficient liquidity for now.

Sears has been suffering from declining sales since 2005, when hedge fund titan Edward Lampert merged the two iconic chains in an $11 billion deal.

Sears, still controlled by Lampert, said on Tuesday that same-store sales for the 12 weeks ended October 26 fell 3.7 percent.

The company said it now expected a net loss of between $532 million and $582 million for the third quarter ending November 2, wider than the $498 million loss reported a year earlier.

The company will release its results around November 21.

Battling intense competition from Target Corp , Wal-Mart and Amazon Inc , Sears launched last year a turnaround plan including shutting stores, selling real estate and shedding other assets.

Sears spun off its Orchard Supply Hardware Stores unit in December 2011. It announced plans in 2012 to spin off its Sears Hometown and Outlet businesses and certain hardware stores.

"They have cut the fat. Now they are cutting in the muscle," Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand said, referring to the company's plan to consider separating businesses such as Lands' End.

Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears said any separation of Lands' End would not be structured as a sale but would be through a deal that would benefit shareholders.

Lampert indicated in 2012 that assets such as Lands' End, which Sears bought for about $2 billion in 2002, could be separated.

The company said on Tuesday that it is exploring strategic alternatives for Sears Auto Center, which offers auto repair services and spares. It has started repositioning the business around non-tire related services.

Sears also said that Sears Canada Inc , in which it holds a 51 percent stake, would sell five store leases, including its flagship downtown Toronto store, to Cadillac Fairview Corp Ltd for C$400 million ($383 million).

Sears said it is looking to close even more underperforming Sears and Kmart stores and use the savings to fund its more profitable outlets.

The company's shares were up at $59.43 on the Nasdaq on Tuesday morning.

($1 = 1.04 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bangalore and Dhanya Skariachan in New York; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Kirti Pandey)

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