A SECOND bidder has joined the race to acquire Australian surfwear company Billabong International, with an American consortium led by the manufacturer of Lee Jeans matching a takeover bid lodged in December.
Billabong waited until after the close of trading on Monday to report that a consortium involving US private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners and VF Corporation had lodged a bid to acquire all of its shares.
By offering $1.10 per share, the consortium has virtually matched a takeover offer lodged in December by a consortium led by Billabong board member and top executive Paul Naude.
Mr Naude, who is president of Billabong's American operations, teamed up with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Sycamore Partners to offer $1.10 a share for Billabong, in what was the company's third takeover offer of 2012.
December's $1.10 offer was "indicative, non-binding and conditional", which may explain why the Billabong share price has remained below 90¢ in recent weeks and was 84.5¢ at Monday's close, down 1.5¢ on the day.
The new offer is also "indicative, non-binding and conditional", but brings the company into a bidding war, which could energise the stock in morning trading on Tuesday.
In a statement, Billabong said it would grant the VF consortium the same level of access to conduct due diligence that had been offered to Mr Naude's consortium.
"Billabong will now run a process to evaluate whether a change of control proposal, at a price and on terms that the board would recommend, can be secured. This process is expected to take approximately six weeks," the company said.
"The board of Billabong reiterates that there is no guarantee that an acceptable binding proposal will be forthcoming from either the Sycamore consortium or the Altamont/VF Consortium.
"In the meantime, Billabong shareholders do not need to take any action in relation to this matter."
If the new bidder were to prevail in the fight for Billabong, the famous Australian surf label would join a host of well-known fashion brands under the VF umbrella. VF owns more than 25 apparel brands including Lee, North Face, Wrangler, Timberland and Nautica.