Is the end near for J.C. Penney?

By Maureen Farrell NEW YORK (CNNMoney) J.C. Penney's stock hit a 13-year low Wednesday as investors grow increasingly concerned about the future of the iconic American retailer.

Shares plunged more than 15% at one point and briefly dipped below $10 a share -- a level they have not been at since November 2000.

Several analysts are predicting that J.C. Penney did not have a good back to school shopping season, and that sales continued to plummet in late August and early September.

Investors had already been spooked by reports that J.C. Penney might be seeking to raise more cash through the sale of new stock or bonds.

In a conference call with analysts last month, J.C. Penney executives said they would not need to raise more cash anytime soon. They expected to have $1.5 billion in cash by year-end.

But JPMorgan analyst Carla Casella recently estimated that the retailer could run out of cash by the third quarter of 2014 if J.C. Penney's sales and profits failed to improve.

J.C. Penney did not return immediate requests for comment.

The retailer's fall from grace during the past decade has been dramatic.

Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman had been betting on a turnaround of J.C. Penney for the past several years. To make that happen, he brought in Ron Johnson, the former retail chief of Apple, as CEO. But Johnson's attempt to remake J.C. Penney was a failure. Sales continued to sink and the company racked up big losses.

Earlier this year, Johnson was pushed out, and former J.C. Penney CEO Myron Ullman returned to take the helm. Ackman then sold his stake and departed the company's board in August. He ultimately wound up losing hundreds of millions of dollars on his J.C. Penney stake.

After Ackman's exit, several hedge funds bought stakes in J.C. Penney, including George Soros and Hayman Capital's Kyle Bass. Their interest initially drove up the stock. It clearly did not last.


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