VF Corp. Enters Bidding for Billabong

VF and private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners submitted a nonbinding, joint letter of interest for the Australian company at $1.16 a share.

Shares of VF Corp. rose 3.3 percent after the company disclosed that it and Altamont Capital Partners are interested in acquiring Billabong International Ltd. for 1.10 Australian dollars, or $1.16, a share.

This story first appeared in the January 15, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The two said Monday they’ve submitted a nonbinding, joint letter of interest. VF said its primary interest is in the Billabong brand, while Atlamont’s interest is in Billabong’s “other brands and related assets.”

Eric Wiseman, chairman, president and chief executive officer of VF, told WWD, “We haven’t looked at acquisitions with other parties as we’re doing in this case. Our interest is in Billabong, and Altamont’s is in the company’s other assets. Ordinarily, we don’t disclose interest of this sort at this early stage in discussions, but knowing that Billabong would be doing so in Australia and that our expression of interest, although very preliminary, would become public, we issued a statement about it.”

The plan by VF and Altamont to split up Billabong, while atypical, isn’t an entirely new model in terms of its structure.

In May 2012, Collective Brands Inc. inked a deal to be acquired by a consortium of investors that included Wolverine World Wide Inc., Blum Capital Partners and Golden Gate Capital in a transaction valued at $2 billion, including the assumption of debt.

The deal had Collective’s Performance + Lifestyle Group acquiring Wolverine’s brands for more than $1.2 billion. The Payless ShoeSource and Collective Licensing International operations of Collective, which supports the Payless retail operation, were acquired by the two private equity firms for slightly less than $800 million.

Given that the VF-Altamont expression of interest is nonbinding, there is no obligation on their part to disclose yet who will be paying for what component of the planned Billabong split up.

Shares of VF closed at $153.88 in trading Monday on the Big Board.

The VF-Altamont plan matches an existing offer, also nonbinding, made by a consortium led by Paul Naudé, president of Billabong’s U.S. business, on Dec. 14. The consortium includes private equity firm Sycamore Partners.

Both nonbinding bids, at 504.9 million Australian dollars, peg Billabong at $555.3 million at current exchange rates.

The latest offers for Billabong follow four previous bids from TPG, the U.S. private equity firm, and a competing bid from Bain Capital. Previous offers have been significantly higher. Billabong in February rejected TPG’s third takeover attempt, for 3.30 Australian dollars, or $3.53, a share.

The consortium led by Naudé is in the middle of due diligence. When asked how much longer it expects to conduct due diligence, a Sycamore spokesman declined comment.

VF said earlier today that Billabong also has agreed to allow it to conduct due diligence.

Many firms looking at a potential acquisition go through a similar process, and there is no guarantee that either of the current expressions of interest from the Naudé-led consortium and the VF-Altamont combination will lead to a binding offer.