Australia's Billabong posts mammoth $987m loss

SYDNEY - Embattled Australian surfwear brand Billabong reported a huge Aus$859.5 million (US$771.7 million or S$987m) net annual loss Tuesday -- triple the firm's market value and far worse than analyst forecasts.

Billabong said the record loss, which significantly exceeded market predictions of a Aus$560 million deficit, came after a 13.5 per cent plunge in global sales revenues to Aus$1.34 billion and Aus$604.3 million in writedowns.

Chairman Ian Pollard said it had been "the most challenging period in the company's history" with 158 of its stores shutting down, a sell-off of the DaKine brand and the restructuring of Nixon which Billabong said it now valued at nil.

Earnings were Aus$72.6 million, in line with guidance of Aus$67-74 million offered two months ago and 16.4 per cent lower than the previous year.

Billabong's shares closed 5.31 per cent lower at 53.5 cents.

"They have had an absolutely ginormous writedown, and that's the only way that you can describe it," said IG Markets analyst Evan Lucas. "The revenue generation is horrendous."

The ailing firm has been the subject of multiple failed takeover bids, with its shares hitting a record low of 12 cents in June as it battled a prolonged rally of the Australian dollar and muted consumer confidence in its key US and European markets.

Pollard said the company had entered a US$470 million refinancing deal with US private investment firm Altamont Capital partners and GSO Capital partners, including a five-year US$310 million loan, a share issue and an asset-based credit facility from GE Capital.

The firm was also weighing an alternative refinancing proposal, received last week from US hedge funds Centerbridge and Oaktree, and intended to finalise its plans "as soon as practical", Billabong said.

"We are nearing the end of a very long process that has caused distraction, impacted on staff morale and has been very costly," said Pollard.

"Liquidity has been secured and we are within weeks of finalising our long-term funding arrangements," he added.

"The company looks forward to refocusing, reinvigorating its brands and rebuilding the business on a solid, long-term financial footing."

Lucas said Tuesday's numbers illustrated why successive takeover attempts had lapsed and banks had lost interest in Billabong, leaving only distressed equity firms to pursue a deal, with no forward guidance issued.

He said Billabong was likely to be delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange in the next 12 months and put into private hands, with no spare capital to fund its so-called rebuilding.

"In the end, it's not a good result," he said.