BILLABONG boss Launa Inman's Christmas looks to be spoilt by a pre-holiday $526 million takeover bid from the surfwear retailer's head of its flagship Americas division, Paul Naude, who gave up his post last month to stitch together a buyout for the struggling group.
It is believed Mr Naude, backed by a consortium of financiers that includes participation by private equity, has lobbed an offer of $1.10 per share on the boardroom table that he once shared with other directors, although the takeover offer is highly conditional and reliant on due diligence.
Billabong head Launa Inman. Photo: Robert Shakespeare
The takeover bid, Billabong's third in a year, will likely disrupt the chief executive's concentrated plans to turn around the embattled youth apparel and merchandise retailer with the man up until November in charge of the Americas division - Billabong's biggest region by sales and profits - now actively working against her and other directors to seize control of the company.
''I would imagine there will be consistent speculation about takeovers and [that] must be quite disruptive to the business,'' said Credit Suisse analyst Grant Saligari.
''It must be making it difficult to attract and retain good people so I think this constant speculation can't be good in terms of establishing a stable business and getting on with the job they need to do.''
Shares in Billabong were placed in a trading halt on Monday as word leaked that a bid by Mr Naude and his team had been presented to the Billabong board over the weekend, but not before more than 6.5 million shares were traded during a brisk session, with the stock gaining 4.5¢, or 4.8 per cent, at 98¢.
As fears mounted that investors were trading in an uninformed market, Billabong belatedly placed a halt on the stock, with an announcement expected as late as Tuesday about the fresh takeover approach.
''The company is in a trading halt and we will make an announcement at the appropriate time,'' a statement from Billabong read.
Four weeks ago Billabong announced to the shock of investors that Mr Naude would temporarily step aside as a director and head of its Americas operation for a period of six weeks as he advised on a potential leveraged company buyout. His then departure came only five weeks after US private equity fund TPG walked away from a $695 million takeover proposal and followed another withdrawn takeover bid from a rival private equity firm.
There were unconfirmed reports on Monday night that Mr Naude had attracted New York-based private equity business Sycamore Partners to his bidding consortium.
Mr Naude is in a prime position to judge the value of Billabong and its earnings potential. A 14-year veteran at the company, having been president of the American operations since 1998, he was appointed a director in 2002 and is responsible for a division that last year generated $750.3 million in sales, representing nearly half of Billabong's annual revenue. The Americas region also contributed just under $60 million in pre-tax earnings, or 46 per cent of total group earnings.
At Billabong's annual meeting last month Mr Naude received the highest ''no'' vote for his re-election to the board of any director also up for election, with 129.95 million shares voted against him, or 45 per cent of the total vote.
At the full year, Billabong declared a $275.6 million loss for the 2011-12 financial year as $537.5 million in asset write-downs and restructuring costs plunged the company into the red.