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The Associated Press March 20, 2012, 10:34AM ET

Sears hires exec to develop real estate assets

Sears Holdings Corp., which operates Sears and Kmart stores, on Tuesday named David Lukes as president of its real estate development, the latest move as it seeks to improve its profit by making more money from its real estate holdings.

Lukes was previously president and CEO of real estate company Mall Properties Inc.

At Sears, which is led by billionaire investor Edward Lampert, he will work to develop Sears' real estate assets, including those that are no longer in use as retail stores.

CEO Lou D'Ambrosio said that Sears, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., has previously gotten money from its real estate holdings through store acquisitions, store sales and leasing and licensing business. With the addition of Lukes, the company will also be able to redevelop some properties, he said.

Sears has struggled with losses stemming from tough competition and weak demand for its merchandise. Investors have long speculated that the troubled retailer could sell off its massive real estate holdings to generate extra cash

In February the company said it will spin off of its smaller Hometown and Outlet stores as well as some hardware stores in a deal expected to raise $400 million to $500 million. It is also selling 11 stores to the real estate company General Growth Properties for $270 million.

The plans follow news in December that the company would close at least 100 to 120 stores to raise cash after a disastrous holiday season in which revenue at stores open at least a year -- an indicator of a retailer's health -- fell 5.2 percent in the eight weeks ended on Dec. 25.

Shares rose 76 cents to $80.62 in morning trading.

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