Finance Finesse

Billabong Negotiates Stabilizing Loans

The surf-wear retailer can finally focus on building back its brands now that it has agreed to a financing package and paid off previous debt

Billabong International Ltd. (ASE: BBG) can finally focus on building back its brands now that it has agreed to a financing package and paid off previous debt. The surf-wear retailer accepted the deal, including a $294 million bridge loan, after fielding progressively smaller buyout offers from a combination of private equity firms and strategic buyers for more than a year.

On July 16, Billabong entered into an agreement with entities advised by Altamont Capital Partners, a Palo Alto, Calif.-private equity firm and GSO Capital Partners, the credit arm of New York private equity firm the Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX). The company repaid its former debt facility in full with the $294 million on July 23. The loan carries a 12 percent interest rate and matures Dec. 31.

In connection with the bridge loan, Billabong sold the DaKine Hawaii Inc. brand to Altamont for about $63.6 million. DaKine, based in Maui, Hawaii, makes backpacks, luggage, gloves, outerwear and other products.

Billabong had begun considering a sale of DaKine, apparel brand RCVA and West49, a Canadian action sports retailer, before it had the means to repay its credit facility.

Experts have suggested that one of Billabong's problems is that in diversifying its product lines, it deviated too far from the surfer image that led it to early success.

In February, Billabong announced a half-year loss of $556.7 million, which it said resulted from difficult trading conditions in Europe. The company also blamed the loss on the disappointing performance of the Nixon watch line, in which it owns a 48.5 percent stake.

As part of the new loan agreement, Scott Olivet, formerly the CEO of sportswear company Oakley Inc., has been appointed CEO of Billabong.

After Billabong accepted the loan, it declined a debt-for-equity swap proposed by private equity firms Oaktree Capital Group LLC and Centerbridge Capital Partners LLC, saying that their offer lacked the certainty of Altamont's refinancing plan.

Billabong, based in Queensland, Australia, also entered into commitment letters with Altamont, GSO and GE Capital for a long-term financing package. The parties will provide a term loan and convertible note, and GE Capital will provide a revolving credit facility.

The financing is intended to give Billabong a more flexible capital structure to allow it to stabilize the business and pursue a growth strategy. The financing will also be used to pay off the bridge loan.

Billabong, known mostly for its sportswear and beach attire, rejected an offer of more than $770 million from private equity firm TPG Capital Management in February 2012. A $556 million offer in January from Altamont and retail brand owner VF Corp. (NYSE: VFC) also fell through, as did a $300 million offer from Sycamore Partners Management.

For more information on related topics, visit the following: