J.C. Penney Gets Enough Lifeline to Hang Itself


On Monday, J.C. Penney confirmed that Goldman Sachs will lend money to just about anyone. The company opened a new $1.75 billion loan facility with Goldman, which it is hoping to use to help itself out since it's been burning through its available cash. The loan is secured against its real estate holdings, which many have pointed out are currently more valuable than the company itself.

It's been a busy month for J.C. Penney: It fired Ron Johnson from the CEO position and replaced him with former CEO Mike Ullman, George Soros took a 7.9% stake, and now the new loan from Goldman Sachs. The stock is up 14% over the last month, and investors seem to be excited about the possibility of a turnaround.

Property equals cash
I'm not going to invest in J.C. Penney, but it's undeniable that the company has a lot of potential in its locations. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company could spin off 300 of its locations and bring in $1.2 billion in rental income. That would result in a market capitalization of roughly $11 billion, which is more than three times the current value of J.C. Penney.

Soros' investment may have been banking on that idea, since all of the company's actual metrics point to failure. Comparable sales dropped 25% over the last year and 32% in the last quarter. In short, J.C. Penney is sinking.

Keeping the dream alive
Even with that kind of spectacular failure behind it, Goldman Sachs decided that J.C. Penney was worth the risk -- or maybe it just thought the company was sure to fail and that it could get some cheap real estate. Either way, J.C. Penney now has some money to keep on slowly falling apart. The company's newest plan is to sell a range of jewelry at its Bijoux Bar, which is very similar to the its denim bar idea.

The point is, J.C. Penney isn't doing anything new, and if it doesn't do something new, then it's just going to use up its new loan with no meaningful results. What Ullman needs to do is figure out what J.C. Penney's customers actually want.

The bottom line
J.C. Penney might have some more money to play with, but until it has some new ideas, I can't see any reason to invest. It spent plenty of money last year, and it got nowhere. Maybe Ullman has a trick up his sleeve, but it would have to be a massive one to make J.C. Penney anything other than mediocre -- which, admittedly, would still be a step up.

J.C. Penney's stock cratered under Ron Johnson's leadership, but could new CEO Mike Ullman present the opportunity investors have been waiting for? If you're wondering whether J.C. Penney is a buy today, you're invited to claim a copy of The Motley Fool's must-read report on the company. Learn everything you need to know about J.C. Penney's turnaround -- or lack thereof. Simply click here now for instant access.

The article J.C. Penney Gets Enough Lifeline to Hang Itself originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Andrew Marder has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Goldman Sachs. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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