Bloomberg reported on Monday that struggling retailer J.C. Penney (JCPN.Q) has hired the services of AlixPartners LLP, a consulting firm perhaps best known for steering companies through turnarounds and bankruptcies. The retailer has not publicly confirmed the claim. Bloomberg's report, which only cited "people with knowledge of the matter," suggests the 118-year-old retailer may be nearing some sort of restructuring.
The suggestion isn't unthinkable. Like most retailers right now, J.C. Penney's stores are shuttered to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. With no quick end to the shutdown on the horizon, the company furloughed most of its store employees late last month. Unlike most other retailers though, J.C. Penney moved into the coronavirus storm on a particularly shaky footing. The company was sitting on roughly $3.6 billion in long-term debt as of the end of the most recently reported quarter ending Feb. 1, and held only $386 million in cash or equivalents.
Moody's notes the retailer has since drawn $1.25 billion from a $2.35 billion revolving credit agreement established before the COVID-19 pandemic spurred shutdowns, solving any near-term liquidity challenges. But, with no end to stay-at-home mandates in sight and no assurance consumers will flock back to malls and stores in droves once the lockdown ends, this may still not be enough cash to keep the retailer intact.
The department store chain also appears to have enlisted the help of investment bank Lazard and law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, which also handles corporate bankruptcies.