Billabong receives second, matching U.S. takeover offer

SYDNEY Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:35pm EST

A Billabong employee opens the company store in central Sydney August 27, 2012. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

A Billabong employee opens the company store in central Sydney August 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Daniel Munoz

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian surfwear company Billabong International Ltd (BBG.AX) received a second takeover offer from U.S. clothing company VF Corp (VFC.N) and a private equity firm that matches a A$556 million ($586.55 million) bid by its U.S. boss, Paul Naude.

Billabong said on Monday it will allow VF and the firm, Altamont Capital Partners, to see its books, after already opening the accounts to a consortium led by board director Naude and New York-based private equity firm Sycamore Partners.

Both groups have offered A$1.10 per share for the struggling Australian company, which issued its third profit warning in a year in December.

Billabong said it would evaluate the proposals to determine whether it can secure a deal "at a price and on terms the board would recommend."

"This process is expected to take about six weeks," the firm added in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

Naude and Sycamore Partners unveiled their approach on December 18, the same day Billabong announced its latest profit warning, when it said annual earnings could be 15 percent lower than previously forecast.

The company had a tumultuous 2012, alienating investors after rejecting a A$3.30 bid by TPG Capital TPG.UL in February as too low. Subsequent offers of A$1.45 from TPG and Bain Capital were withdrawn after due diligence.

Billabong, whose brands include its namesake, as well as Von Zipper and Element, has sold off key assets and replaced its chief executive in the past year as a result of profit downgrades.

To turn the tide, new Chief Executive Launa Inman recently outlined a four-year strategy to simplify the business and close stores.

Billabong's shares closed at $A0.845, down 1.7 percent, before the announcement on Monday.

On Friday, Inman announced the appointment of Peter Myers, a former Ten Network and APN News and Media executive, as chief financial officer after the departure of former CFO Craig White shortly before Christmas.

Naude stepped aside from his position as president of Billabong's U.S. business to mount the takeover bid.

VF Corp has more than 30 brands, including the North Face, Wrangler, Timberland, Vans and Lee. The company, which has expressed an intent to acquire action sports brands, is primarily interested in the Billabong brand. Altamont is interested in Billabong's other brands and related assets.

(Reporting by Jane Wardell in Sydney; Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and M.D. Golan)

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