Sears, Former American Icon, Will Be Kicked Off S&P 500

A founding member of the iconic American stock index getting bumped after 57 years

on August 30 2012 12:05 PM
Sears
An elderly man who stole cash from a Seattle Sears in the 1940s returned the sum with interest on Monday, over 60 years later. REUTERS

Sears Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: SHLD), which revolutionized retail in the 20th century with its mail-order catalogs, will be removed from the widely followed S&P 500 stock index on Sept. 4, ending a 57-year on the equity benchmark as one of the most recognizable companies in the United States.

Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears, which was a founding member of the iconic American stock index when it was formed in 1957, has been struggling to attract shoppers for years. The company owns more than 3,000 of its eponymous stores and Kmarts following a 2005 merger.

Recently it has been outperformed by discount giants Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT) and Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ:COST).

"Despite its size and a history that dates back more than a century, Sears Holdings has not produced top-line growth for six consecutive years," wrote Paul Swinand, an analyst with Morningstar Inc., in a research note last week. "We believe Sears has suffered disproportionately from the recent economic downturn, in part because of its popularity among ethnic and working-class customers and its historical strength in home appliances and other housing-related consumer hard goods categories."

Standard & Poor's said that Sears' removal was based on its excess public float, which measures the number of public shares that are available for investors to trade. But the S&P also said in a statement that Sears "is no longer considered representative of the index."

Sears Chariman Edward Lampert's hedge fund ESL Investments Inc. holds 65.7 million, or around 62 percent, of Sears' 106.4 million outstanding shares, according to FactSet. Former executives at Sears have criticized Lampert for an inefficient management style, the Post reported in May.

Earlier this month, Sears reported an adjusted loss of 86 cents per share, which was below the previous year's loss of $1.18 per share and in line with analysts' expectations. However, sales fell to $9.46 billion from $10.1 billion and same-store sales declined 2.9 percent in Sears stores and 4.7 percent in Kmart stores.

The retailer plans to close 120 underperforming stores this year and will spin off its Hometown and Outlet stores to raise $446.5 million in the third quarter.

Sears will be replaced by the Netherlands-based chemical company LyondellBasell Industries NV (NYSE: LYB).

Shares of Sears fell $4.26, or 7.30 percent, to $53.26 in Thursday morning trading.

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