* Billabong has matching bids from two sets of suitors
* Shares hit record low, fans concerns about the bids
* Company requested trading halt to investigate reason for
* Previous higher bids withdrawn after due diligence
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY, March 21 Troubled Australian surfwear
firm Billabong International Ltd said on Thursday it
remains in talks with two groups weighing $544 million bids for
the company -- a statement that comes after the company's shares
plunged to a record low.
Billabong had asked for a trading halt to investigate why
its shares had fallen more than 20 percent earlier in the day, a
slide which exacerbated fears about the status of the bids.
It has received matching bids of A$1.10 a share --one by a
consortium of private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners and
U.S. clothing group VF Corp, and another from
Billabong's former U.S. boss Paul Naude and private equity firm
Due diligence is expected to be completed by the end of the
In a statement, Billabong said it was not aware of the
reason for increased levels of trading earlier in the day but
had noted that there had been an article about the company in
the Australian Financial Review.
The Australian Financial Review said investors were
struggling to find fair value for the firm and cited a Credit
Suisse report that mentioned the potential for weaker earnings.
The company had a tumultuous 2012, alienating investors
after rejecting a A$3.30 bid by TPG Capital in February
as too low. Subsequent offers of A$1.45 from TPG and Bain
Capital were withdrawn after due diligence.
Billabong has sold off key assets and replaced its chief
executive in the past year as a result of profit downgrades.
It posted a net loss of A$536.6 million in the half year to
end December and cut its guidance for the full year.
Shares in Billabong, whose brands include its namesake as
well as Von Zipper and Element, sank to an all-time low of
A$0.63 and last traded down 14.2 percent at A$0.695 before being
placed on the trading halt.