Billabong Said Near Deal

Consortium led by former division head is said to have the edge among bidders.

SYDNEY — Billabong International Ltd. could be close to announcing its board has accepted a 60 Australian cent per share offer, or $0.62 at current exchange, from a consortium led by its former head of the Americas division Paul Naudé, valuing the company at 285 million Australian dollars, or $296 million.

The deal, which is said to be worth more than 600 million Australian dollars, or $622 million, including debt and deferred consideration, was the higher of two bids on the table, with the Altamont/VF Corp. consortium’s offer of 50 cents ($0.52) valuing the company at 249 million Australian dollars, or $258 million, according to a report in Monday’s The Australian Financial Review.

Billabong’s stock last traded at 73 cents, or $0.76, before trading was halted on April 2 — and suspended indefinitely on April 4 while discussions continued.  

The shares were placed in an earlier trading halt on March 21 following a report that day in The Australian Financial Review which drew attention to worst-case speculation by Credit Suisse that Billabong’s equity value might be reduced to zero by fiscal 2015 if earnings did not improve.

The publication of the report coincided with a record 22 percent loss to 63 Australian cents ($0.65) on the Australian Securities Exchange, amid speculation that the Naudé-Sycamore and Altamont/VF Corp. consortia might reduce their matching 1.10 Australian dollar, or $1.14, share offers.

In February, Billabong reported a 537 million Australian dollar net loss after tax (or $550.2 million at February exchange) for the six months to December 2012, impacted by 567 million Australian dollars ($581 million) worth of impairment charges and other write-downs on the value of Billabong, the group’s 48.5 percent share of Nixon and North American goodwill.

Although a deal at 60 cents per share appears absurd — taking into account the board’s rejection of TPG Capital’s 3.30 Australian dollar offer in February 2012 ($3.53 at February exchange) — according to Evan Lucas, a market strategist with IG Markets, there is buzz that a total wipeout may now have been “priced out”.

According to Lucas, “the issue now becomes do you, as a shareholder, accept the deal at 60 cents, probably taking a haircut of 44 percent from the offer that was $1.10 in December? Or does the board reject the offer and therefore do a capital raising to support the company? The issue there would be that any form of capital raising would have to be at a significant discount to the current 73 cents [share price]. The other issue is that you’re obviously diluting your shareholders again. It’s almost a lose, lose situation for shareholders of Billabong. It’s certainly looking very, very sick and I think you’ll probably find that board says that this is the best that we can do.”