Dear Valued Visitor,

We have noticed that you are using an ad blocker software.

Although advertisements on the web pages may degrade your experience, our business certainly depends on them and we can only keep providing you high-quality research based articles as long as we can display ads on our pages.

To view this article, you can disable your ad blocker and refresh this page or simply login.

We only allow registered users to use ad blockers. You can sign up for free by clicking here or you can login if you are already a member.

Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD): Can This Retailer “Build” a Profitable Future?

Sears Holdings CorpPredicting what Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) might look like in three to five years brings to mind the parable about the blind man and the elephant.  It really does depend upon which part of the Sears story you feel most comfortable grasping.  We all know that Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) has been struggling to become more competitive with fellow retailers:  Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT)Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE:M) and Kohl’s Corporation (NYSE:KSS).  Sears has also rolled out a member loyalty program and online strategies to fight with, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and others for its share of internet commerce.  These are the parts of Sears most investors instinctively grasp.

But how many investors expected that this iconic retailer would be gearing up to compete with datacenter and communications real estate giants like Digital Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE:DLR) and American Tower Corp (NYSE:AMT)?

So how long will it take to staunch the bleeding?

In a piece recently written for Motley Fool readers, I pointed out that Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD)’s operations have consumed $571 million in cash during the past two years — while over 500 K-Mart and Sears locations have been closed.  Some former executives and retail analysts have grave concerns regarding Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD)’ retailing future due to the continuing decline in same store sales.  During 2012, a group of 11 stores were sold to mall owner General Growth Properties for $270 million, and three leases totaling 1 million square feet were returned to Canadian landlord Cadillac Fairview, generating $170 million for Sears Holdings.

Where is more money likely to be found?

Unfortunately, deals of this type are unique and can’t be used to infer a value for remaining Sears and K-Mart stores due to local market and site specific factors.  The conventional leasing and sales activity for available facilities listed on the Sears SHC Realty website began in 2010 — including leasing space to grocer Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) in mall locations sprinkled throughout the U.S. Sears still has a remaining real estate portfolio of approximately 240 million square feet including 750 owned and 1,520 leased Sears, K-Mart and Sears Canada stores.

Panning for high tech gold

Newly minted in May, Ubiquity Critical Environments is both a real estate and a technology initiative.  It is tasked with “the mission of converting some of the more than 330 closed Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) and Kmart stores into facilities for data warehousing, network co-location centers, and business continuity operations.” According to a May 23 Datacenter Knowledge report, the first step has been to evaluate the portfolio and identify properties that could work as data centers.  Chicago engineering firm ESD has been conducting a “data center fitness test” on promising properties to size up their power, fiber and risk profiles.

The first nugget will be found in Chicago

The first Ubiquity project will be a 127,000 former Sears store on the south side of Chicago that has 5 megawatts of existing power capacity with the potential to expand.  It is planned to be retrofitted as a multi-tenant data center.

This puts Ubiquity directly in competition with companies such as Digital Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE:DLR), a global leader in the data storage REIT space with over 23 million square feet leased to tenants in 123 properties. According to the Wall Street Journal, analysts are concerned about rising capital expenses and declining rent at data-center REITs. Shares of all REITs have been hit hard the past couple of months due to a rising interest rate environment.

In spite of that trend, Digital Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE:DLR) still has a market capitalization of $7.6 billion, and generates enough cash to pay out a hefty $3.20 per share dividend, a yield of 5.3%. The good news for Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) investors is that Digital Realty is doing this with a real estate footprint that is one-tenth the square footage of the existing Sears real estate portfolio.

DOWNLOAD FREE REPORT: Warren Buffett's Best Stock Picks

Let Warren Buffett, George Soros, Steve Cohen, and Daniel Loeb WORK FOR YOU.

If you want to beat the low cost index funds by 19 percentage points per year, look no further than our monthly newsletter.In this free report you can find an in-depth analysis of the performance of Warren Buffett's entire historical stock picks. We uncovered Warren Buffett's Best Stock Picks and a way to for Buffett to improve his returns by more than 4 percentage points per year.

Bonus Biotech Stock Pick: You can also find a detailed bonus biotech stock pick that we expect to return more than 50% within 12 months.
Subscribe me to Insider Monkey's Free Daily Newsletter
This is a FREE report from Insider Monkey. Credit Card is NOT required.