"I don't know how they're going to turn it around," he said Tuesday. "This was a company making $3.6 billion in Ebitda four years ago," compared to $400 million this year "at a time when others are turning things around."
Balter, with a $20 price target and "underperform" rating on the stock, said Sears has been losing market share to Home Depot and Lowe's on sales of power tools, and Wal-Mart and Target on drawing shoppers seeking discounts.
Home Depot and Lowe's in particular stand to benefit from Sears closing stores because they've already been aggressively pricing appliances, which make up about 7 percent of Home Depot sales and 10 percent at Lowe's. Those who won't benefit are Sears suppliers, such as Whirlpool, one of the companies that makes Sears' Kenmore appliance.
"They’ve done a very nice job online," Balter said of Sears' website, "but they can’t get people into the stores, and that’s where most of their asset base is."
He said Chairman Eddie Lampert has limited choices. Land's End, which Sears bought in 2002, is a well-managed subsidiary with $1.5 billion to $2 billion in sales that can "be easily separated from Sears," Balter said. After that, however, the problem is "how do you separate the other assets without destroying the franchise?"