Billabong extends trading halt as suitors hold back

Billabong has called an indefinite trading suspension while negotiations with two potential suitors drag on.

Billabong has called an indefinite trading suspension while negotiations with two potential suitors drag on.

The company made the announcement to the market on Thursday before a trading halt on its shares was due to be lifted.

It has received six takeover offers since early 2012 but none have succeeded.

Billabong said the suspension would remain in place until "the company is able to make an announcement in relation to such negotiations".

Speculation is mounting that Billabong's two suitors - both backed by private equity - have dropped their takeover offer as low as 80¢ a share, down from an initial proposal priced of $1.10.

One offer is from Sycamore Partners and Paul Naude; the other is from Altamont Capital and VF Corp, the US retailer behind brands such as Timberland, North Face and Vans. VF Corp has said its only interest is in the Billabong brand.

Altamont is interested in acquiring the rest of the business, which includes the vast retail network.

Billabong imposed a deadline on both suitors to make a decision about their interest in the company before Easter.

It called a trading halt on Tuesday when a resolution could not be reached, despite the board meeting over the Easter break.

Credit Suisse recently reassessed the company's valuation on the basis that bids fail to emerge, giving it a weighted valuation of 59¢ a share.

It said there was a downside scenario in which earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation declined from current guidance of $74 million this year to about $50 million in the 2015 financial year. It said this was because of a reduction in wholesale earnings resulting from brand rationalisation.

"At $50 million EBITDA, equity value is zero," the broker said. Last week, UBS raised the prospect that investors might be forced into raising more capital.

UBS retail analyst Ben Gilbert said the most likely outcome was a 91¢-a-share offer, based on the original eight times earnings before interest and tax multiple before the company's most recent downgrade.

In the absence of a bid, though, Billabong might need a $100 million capital raising to fix the company's balance sheet, he said.

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