J.C. Penney Company said Friday it would slash up to a third of its $5 billion in pension obligations as the struggling department store chain seeks to lower costs amid crippling losses in recent years. Thousands of retired former employees already have accepted the company’s offer of lump-sum payments due next month when the company will announce a final settlement amount. Others have accepted early retirement offers.
The 113-year-old retailer also announced a deal with Prudential Insurance to purchase a group annuity contract, which includes transferring a portion of the company’s assets, a move that will settle “a substantial portion” of the company’s remaining pension obligations. The move reduces Penney’s future pension obligations by as much as 35 percent, the company said.
The Texas-based midrange merchandiser joins other companies that recently have been unloading future pension liabilities to insurers seeking to boost their assets. Last year, U.S. telecommunications equipment maker Motorola Solutions made a similar arrangement with Prudential, transferring $3.1 billion in pension liabilities, the Wall Street Journal reported. General Motors and Verizon Communications also have shifted these future costs to insurers in recent years.
The share price of J.C. Penney Company Inc. (NYSE:JCP) increased 4.75 percent to $9.71 in early trading Friday. The company’s share price has gained nearly 48 percent on higher sales, but revenue growth has been tepid and the company hasn’t been profitable on an annual basis since 2012.
Penney will announce its third-quarter results on or near Nov. 13. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the retailer to report $2.88 billion in revenue, a 4 percent increase from the same quarter last year. Losses are seen narrowing to $171.7 million from $235 million.