BILLABONG DISAPPOINTS AGAIN BUT INMAN HITS BACK

Written on the 9 May 2013

BILLABONG DISAPPOINTS AGAIN BUT INMAN HITS BACK

BILLABONG’S shares have been suspended again dealing another disappointing blow to shareholders waiting for news of a potential takeover bid this morning.

The company has also hit out at criticism that chief executive Launa Inman (pictured) has been absent from the company’s headquarters at a critical juncture for the takeover negotiations.

Billabong’s shares, which were placed in a two-day trading halt on Tuesday pending an announcement today, are now voluntarily suspended until talks are finalised.

Over the past month, Billabong executive Paul Naude and US private equity firm Sycamore Partners have been in the box seat to launch an official bid after Billabong gave them a limited exclusivity period to progress discussions.

Naude, who for now has the backing of Billabong founder Gordon Merchant for a prospective bid, is the long-time head of the company’s Americas operations.

He stepped aside from the role late last year after announcing plans for the Billabong bid.

Sycamore has indicated it is willing to pay 60c a share for the Gold Coast-based surfwear icon, valuing the company at $287 million, down from $1.10 a share originally planned.

But there are indications that rival bidder VF Corporation, owner of the Timberland clothing group, and Altamont Capital Partners may still be in the frame which could spark a bidding war.

Billabong told the Australian Securities Exchange this morning that it has sought the suspension to further discussions with “interested parties”.

“The company requests that the suspension remains in place until such time as the company is able to make an announcement in relation to such discussions,” it says.

Billabong spokesman Chris Fogarty tells Gold Coast Business News that he cannot comment any further on the bid process beyond the statement made to the ASX this morning.

Fogarty says the situation is “not ideal” and “frankly frustrating”, but he has praised staff for their patience.

“Everyone’s looking for an outcome,” he says, conceding that the prolonged negotiations are a distraction for the group.

Fogarty also has defended Inman who has just returned from New Zealand and the US in the past few weeks, sparking criticism that the Billabong CEO has taken her hand off the wheel at Billabong’s Burleigh Heads headquarters.

“Launa has been in New Zealand to address all the Billabong team there,” Fogarty says.

“She had promised that she would address them, but has had to delay that trip continuously.”

Fogarty says Inman’s trip to the US was in order to “focus on critical parts of the business” including staff and suppliers.

Fogarty says he has always been able to get hold of Inman on matters of urgency during any of her travels offshore, which some say have been frequent since she took the Billabong helm a year ago.

“The idea that a global CEO should stay in one office is a bit bemusing,” Fogarty says.

The Billabong corporate affairs executive confirms that Inman is currently on the Gold Coast while negotiations with the bid parties continue.

Billabong’s shares last traded at 45.5c, valuing the former multibillion-dollar company at just $217 million.

The massive fall in fortunes for Billabong shareholders has seen the once dominant company relegated to fifth place among the Gold Coast’s top listed companies.

Check out the full list of top Gold Coast companies in the latest edition of Gold Coast Business News.


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