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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

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Australia's Billabong in trading halt amid takeover reports

Trading on shares in Australian surf and sportswear company Billabong was halted Monday after reports that a former director was leading a takeover bid valued at $555.2 million.

Paul Naude, who last month stepped aside as director and president of Billabong's US business to prepare a buy-out bid, is believed to have offered Aus$1.10 ($1.16) per share, the Australian Financial Review said. The offer from a consortium led by Naude -- and which includes a private equity firm -- values the company at Aus$526.8 million ($555.2 million) and is conditional on due diligence, Dow Jones said, without naming its source.

Billabong International Limited would not comment. "The company is in a trading halt and will make an announcement at the appropriate time," a spokesman told AFP.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, Billabong said the trading halt was requested "pending an announcement by the Company of a possible change of control proposal".

Shares in the ailing sportswear firm were at 98 cents. Billabong shares slumped in October after private equity firm TPG withdrew from its Aus$1.45 takeover offer. Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had also pulled out of a bid during the due diligence phase. In February, Billabong's largest shareholder and founder Gordon Merchant and fellow investor Colette Paul rejected a separate takeover bid from TPG at Aus$3.30 a share.

Naude stood aside last month, saying he was preparing a proposal for a leveraged buyout. His move was independent of Billabong, which said at the time his move was not solicited.

The iconic surfwear retailer reported an Aus$275.6 million net loss for the year in August, as it took on costs associated with a restructure, reversing the previous year's Aus$119.1 million net profit.

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