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Goldman Sachs lines up $1.75 billion J C Penney loan: source

A man with a Macy's bag walks past the J.C. Penney's store in New York, April 11, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A man with a Macy's bag walks past the J.C. Penney's store in New York, April 11, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Caleb Frazier and Alistair Barr

(Reuters) - Goldman Sachs has arranged a $1.75 billion financing package for J.C. Penney Co Inc , backed by the department store chain's real estate and other assets, a source familiar with the situation said on Friday.

Shares of the ailing retailer closed 11.5 percent higher at $17 on Friday, having touched their highest levels in nearly two months, after CNBC first reported the financing had been arranged.

Penney spokesman Joey Thomas said the company does not comment on speculation or rumor. Goldman did not respond to a request for comment.

The retailer has not yet agreed to a deal and there is no guarantee it will, said the source, who did not want to be identified because the information was not public.

Penney, which ended the last fiscal year with less than $1 billion in cash, has been exploring various options to shore up capital after a steep sales slump followed a botched turnaround attempt by former CEO Ron Johnson.

"The debt will buy them time and get them through Christmas. Then you take each day at a time and try to win back customers slowly," said David Berman of Durban Capital, a hedge fund firm focused on retail and e-commerce.

While a debt deal of this type "would allow them to live for this year," Berman said, "it's hard to know what they'll need."

Under Johnson, Penney tried to eliminate coupons and turned off its core shoppers, leading to a 25 percent decline in sales last year. He was recently replaced by his predecessor, Myron Ullman, who is expected to return to the chain's previous strategy of discount pricing.

"Ron Johnson was doing things that were just mind-boggling and didn't make any sense, like raising prices on products, then discounting them. It's going to take time to turn that around," said Berman.

Penney recently borrowed $850 million from its $1.85 billion revolving credit facility to help buy inventory and revamp its business strategy. CNBC's David Faber, who first reported the possible financing on Friday, said Penney would repay that quickly if it decided to take the Goldman package.

News of the fresh financing package came a day after billionaire investor George Soros reported a 7.9 percent passive stake in the company. Soros has not commented on what drew him to invest in the retailer.

(Reporting by Caleb Frazier in New York and Alistair Barr in San Francisco; writing by Dhanya Skariachan; editing by Gary Hill and Matthew Lewis)

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