Sears Canada CEO says not pursuing more asset sales for now

TORONTO, April 24 Thu Apr 24, 2014 3:20pm EDT

TORONTO, April 24 (Reuters) - Department store chain Sears Canada is not actively pursuing any asset sales but would consider opportunities that would "substantially" add value, the company's chief executive said on Thursday.

Sears Canada, 51 percent controlled by hedge fund billionaire Edward Lampert and his Sears Holdings Corp, has been shedding assets and already has cut thousands of workers as it tries to navigate a turnaround.

Profits have eroded in recent years amid intensifying competition. But Douglas Campbell, who became chief executive last September, believes Sears Canada will still appeal to shoppers looking for value and quality in a retail landscape increasingly crowded by new luxury entrants or retailers moving into higher-end categories.

"We will not be an exclusive retailer, our goal is to be an inclusive retailer and really serve middle-class Canadian working families," Campbell said in an interview, noting that Canadians were more frugal than their American counterparts.

Sears, a pioneer of the "direct-to-consumer" business, must also contend with competition from the lower end of the spectrum from the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp . Target opened its doors in Canada a little over a year ago, and the move has spurred Wal-Mart to ramp up its own retail efforts in the country.

In the past year, Sears has terminated leases on seven stores among other divestitures. Earlier this year, it vacated its flagship store at Toronto Eaton Centre located in the heart of Canada's largest city. That space is now mostly walled up in preparation for new tenants, including U.S.-based luxury department store Nordstrom Inc.

Campbell said there are no other asset sales "immediately on the horizon."

"We're always open to opportunities to unlock real estate value when something presents itself that makes sense," Campbell said during the company's annual general meeting. "While we have no plans to vacate stores, we continue to review our portfolio and may consider proposals that will substantially create value." (Editing by Leslie Adler)