J.C. Penney Co Inc is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection as soon as next week with plans to permanently close about a quarter of its roughly 850 stores, becoming the latest major U.S. retailer to succumb to fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, according to people familiar with the matter.
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A bankruptcy filing would cap a long decline for the iconic 118-year-old department store chain, which has struggled with a nearly $4 billion debt load and competition from e-commerce firms and discount brick-and-mortar retailers even before the pandemic's onset.
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The Plano, Texas-based company, which employs nearly 85,000 people, is in discussions with creditors for a so-called debtor-in-possession loan to bolster its finances while it navigates bankruptcy proceedings, the sources said. The loan could total between $400 million and $500 million, some of the sources said.
The timing of a bankruptcy filing could slip depending on how much time it gets from creditors, the sources said. J.C. Penney skipped a $17 million debt payment Thursday and only has five days to make good on it before defaulting. A 30-day grace period on a $12 million payment the company skipped April 15 ends next Friday.
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J.C. Penney has not made a final decision on how to address its strained finances, and is also considering alternatives that include negotiating a deal with creditors outside of bankruptcy court or obtaining additional financing, the sources said. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations.
J.C. Penney declined to comment.
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(Reporting by Mike Spector and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)