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Though biotech is the most fertile area to find cash-strapped short candidates, you can find them in almost any industry. Take retailer
Sears Holdings(SHLD - Get Report) as an example. While other department store chains such as
J.C. Penney(JCP) have made major investments to keep their stores fresh, Sears' management has been on the sidelines giving the stores a fairly dowdy feel.
Consumers have noticed and are starting to shop elsewhere. Same-store sales fell 5% this past month, which is really bad when you consider that retailers count on the holiday season for so much of their profits. The long-term decline for this storied retailer can be seen in the numbers. Net income before taxes peaked at $2.5 billion back in fiscal (January) 2007 and fell more than 90% to $1186 million in fiscal 2011.
The current year should be even worse. Sears Holdings looks set to lose around $500 million this year, and Goldman Sachs suggests losses will stay that high in the fiscal year that begins in February as well fiscal 2014.
Can Sears afford to lose all that money? Well, heading into the fiscal fourth quarter (that began in November), Sears had around $600 million in gross cash. That number likely grew thanks to seasonal positive cash flow, so let's assume it will be $900 million at the end of the February quarter. Well, Sears' burn rate from there is unsustainable, and barring a big turnaround, the retailer would run out of money by the end of calendar 2013.
Want to know how a "death spiral" plays out? Sears will need to come up with around $2.2 billion to address debts coming due in the next 12 months. To come up with that money, management will seek to sell-off inventories, perhaps at heavily discounted prices. Forget about store upgrades or a replenishment of that sold off inventory. Sears' resonance with shoppers will grow even weaker in 2012, and analysts will eventually talk of an end game where the retailer sells off real estate to stay afloat.
Sears, which TheStreet Ratings
rates D+ sell, was also featured recently in "
7 Hot Stocks On Traders' Radars" and "
5 Stocks With Big Insider Buying."