BILLABONG TAKES HUGE LOSS

BILLABONG TAKES HUGE LOSS

TAKEOVER target Billabong (BBG) has slumped to a record net loss of $536.6 million for the December half year, largely due to slashed valuations of the Billabong brand and North American goodwill.

The profit result, a blow to Billabong’s chances of fending off two takeover challenges, also has been hit by a slump in European sales and the disposal of half of the Nixon brand last year.

Billabong has written down the value of its assets by $567 million, leaving the carrying value of its intangible assets at just $351.6 million.

The record loss for the December half compares with a $16.1 million profit a year earlier.

Group revenue fell 8.1 per cent to $699.6 million, while EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation) slid 9.9 per cent to $57.2 million.

In constant-currency terms, Billabong’s preferred reporting method, group EBITDA slumped 12.9 per cent.

Europe has been the biggest single drag on revenue, with EBITDA slumping 77.6 per cent in constant currency terms to $2.4 million.

But the Americas have shown some fight, with EBITDA up 45 per cent to $20.5 million, and Australasia is up 29.3 per cent to $31.8 million.

A Billabong spokesman is keen to downplay the bottom-line loss, saying it is not a “cash” loss but an accounting loss.

“We are being pretty direct about the turnaround and addressing the problems of the past,” he says.

“It took longer than six months to get this company into the position it’s in and it’s going to take longer than six months to get it out of that position.

“We’ve always said four years.”

Billabong CEO Launa Inman stepped into the surfwear giant’s top job last year and announced a turnaround strategy involving store closures and staff cutbacks.

She is not available for comment, with the spokesman citing the takeover process under way as the reason.

But in a statement attached to the profit results, Inman says “positive signs are emerging in several markets and witnessing early benefits of the transformation strategy”.

“These results emphasise that significant structural change is essential to return the group to profitable growth,” she says.

Billabong is subject to two takeover bids – one from US clothing giant VF Corporation and Altamont Capital Partners and the other from Paul Naude, the long-time boss of Billabong’s American operations, in conjunction with private equity firm Sycamore Partners.

Billabong says due diligence is still under way from the rival bidders and the process is due to be completed in March.

Naude and Sycamore have indicated they are willing to pay $526.8 million for Billabong, or $1.10 a share.

The VF/Altamont bid is pitched at the same price.

Billabong’s share slipped under 90c following the release of the profit results.

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