Australia's Billabong ends takeover talks, looks to refinance instead

PHOTO: Australia's Billabong ends takeover talks, looks to refinance instead

Australian surfwear company Billabong International Ltd said on Tuesday it has ended takeover talks with two potential suitors and is now discussing refinancing options instead, as it warned that full-year profit will sink below previous guidance.

Billabong said it was discussing "alternative refinancing and asset sale transactions" with the two consortiums that had previously made full takeover bids - one led by its former US boss Paul Naude and private equity firm Sycamore Partners, and the other by private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners and US clothing group VF Corp.

Billabong said the proceeds from any agreed refinancing would be used to repay its existing syndicated debt facilities in full. It also said it was considering the sale of its Canadian retail chain West 49.

It added that weaker trading in Australia and higher-than-expected start-up losses in its Surfstitch Europe business meant earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) would be A$67 million (S$81.7million) to A$74 million, down from guidance provided in February of A$74 million to A$85 million.

Billabong and its shareholders have endured a horrible year since rejecting a A$850 million bid from rival private equity firm TPG Capital Management in February 2012.

Plagued with high debt from an ill-timed expansion and struggling as its brands fell out of favour, the company has sold assets, closed stores, replaced its chief executive and embarked on a new strategy as a series of takeover proposals came and went.

Both the Sycamore and Altamont consortiums had put forward initial bids worth US$544 million before conducting due diligence.

Billabong then entered into exclusive talks with the Sycamore consortium about a reduced US$300 million offer.

Billabong shares have been halted from trading for two months, having last traded at A$0.73. The stock, which has lost around two-thirds of its value in the past year, sank to an all-time low of A$0.63 in April.