Exclusive: J.C. Penney to file for bankruptcy as soon as next week, sources say

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FILE PHOTO: A JC Penney store is shown in Oceanside, California, U.S., July 31, 2019. Picture taken July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

(Reuters) – J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) 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.

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.

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.

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.

Reporting by Mike Spector and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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