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Billabong shares take off as turnover jumps

A late spurt has seen Billabong shares rocket as much as 14 per cent on the day as investors snapped up the battered stock.

The surf retailer saw turnover surge to 9.6 million - almost three times the average turnover in the past year.

The company's shares ended up 13 cents, or 12.5 per cent, to $1.17, with the percentage gain making it the bigger gainer among the top 200 shares. It was also the biggest one-day advance for the volatile stock since February 17.

Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said it's unclear what was driving Billabong's share price.

One catalyst, though, may have been yesterday's ASX announcement that Macquarie Group had bought 23.9 million Billabong shares, making it a substantial shareholder.

"The fact that [Billabong] has come down so far and so fast... often when they do correct, the correction can be fast as the market tends to reappraise things," Mr Spooner said.


Rumours have circulated for several months that private equity companies including TPG, KKR and Archer, have been eyeing off Billabong, whose value has nose-dived from $17 five years ago to $5 less than a year ago. It sank as low as 96 cents last month.

Billabong's share price has swung wildly during a wretched year in which the surf brand has been hit by a weak retail climate, misguided strategy and management upheaval.

Billabong has been late to embrace the internet, and its leaders over-invested on real estate. In the last six months the retailer has shed its chairman, Ted Kunkel, and sacked its chief executive of 10 years, Derek O'Neill, replacing him with former Target boss Laura Inman.

Shareholders have called for the replacement of Billabong's founder, Gordon Merchant, who made the costly mistake of rejecting a private equity offer at $3.30 in February.

Mr Merchant has recently back-peddled, telling investors he felt "bad" for his error, and opened the door for a new, and presumably much lower, takeover bid.