Buffett’s Berkshire offers loan to owner of former Sears properties

Berkshire Hathaway shareholders walk by a video screen at the company’s annual meeting in Omaha May 4, 2013. (Reuters pic)

NEW YORK: Billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc is loaning up to $2 billion to the company that owns some of what used to be some of Sears Holdings Corp’s best real estate.

A subsidiary of Buffett’s conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway Life Insurance Company of Nebraska, is offering what is known as a term loan facility to a New York-based real estate investment trust that owns the struggling retailer’s formerly owned retail space.

The real-estate trust, Seritage Growth Properties, was formed as a spin-out of some of Sears’ 235 top properties into a publicly traded company of its own in 2015. The US department store operator then leased back some of the properties.

Buffett was an early backer of Seritage. He is personally one of the real estate trust’s top owners, holding nearly 6% of its outstanding shares.

A term loan facility is a financial assistance program offered by a lending institution to help a company that requires operating capital, that has to be repaid within a time limit.

This loan matures on July 31, 2023 and bears interest at a fixed annual rate of 7% plus additional fees.

The financing will help Seritage boost its role as a retail and mixed-use developer across the country, its chief executive, Benjamin Schall, said in a statement.

Berkshire Hathaway did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The conglomerate has been under pressure to whittle down a $108.6 billion stockpile of cash, and in the past has struck advantageous deals to loan money to other companies.

Berkshire has more than 90 operating units including the BNSF railroad, Geico auto insurance, Dairy Queen ice cream, Fruit of the Loom underwear, See’s Candies and a variety of industrial and chemical operations.