January 18, 2013, 9:23 AM

VF Corp. makes a play for Billabong

The Australian maker of outdoor action apparel generates about $53 million in web sales.

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Apparel manufacturer and online retailer VF Corp. is looking to acquire one of Australia’s most well-known action sports manufacturers and retailers.

VF, No. 109 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 and the owner of well-known consumer brands such as The North Face, Lee, Nautica, Wrangler and Timberland, has submitted a letter of proposal to acquire Billabong International Ltd. in a deal valued at about $560 million. The proposal comes on the heels of another offer submitted by an investment group headed up by Paul Naude, the former president of Billabong’s U.S. group, and private equity firm Sycamore Partners Management.

VF, which in recent years has been making acquisitions in the outdoor apparel arena is partnering with San Francisco investment banking firm Altamont Capital Partners to acquire all outstanding shares of Billabong for about $1.16 per share. Billabong has acknowledged the offer and says its board of directors is evaluating both deals.

Billabong makes and markets apparel, accessories, eyewear, wetsuits and other accessories under the Billabong, Element, Von Zipper, Honolua Surf Co., Kustom, Palmers Surf, Xcel, Tigerlily, Sector 9, DaKine and RVCA brands. Billabong also sells online direct to the public in multiple countries including the U.S.

“Our primary interest in the transaction is in the Billabong brand,” says VF Corp. “This interest is consistent with VF’s stated intent to pursue acquisitions, particularly in the action sports category.”

For the 2012 fiscal year ended June 30, Billabong reported a year over year drop in sales of 7.9%to $1.63 billion from $1.77 billion. The company posted a net loss of about $291 million compared with net income of about $125.8 million in fiscal 2011.

Billabong also operates an active e-commerce program with sales in recent years that have been growing annually at about 50%, the company says. Annual web sales now total about $53 million, a number Billabong says it will grow to about $200 million in the next five years.


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