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Quiksilver parent issues warning over Billabong deal

BillabongQuiksilver’s owner Boardriders says there will be “blood on the hands” of those who block its takeover of surfwear brand Billabong, as a shareholder vote on the deal nears.

US-based Boardriders lobbed a $1-a-share bid for debt-laden Billabong in January, an offer that is unanimously supported by the Australian label’s board and by founder and major shareholder Gordon Merchant.

However, Boardriders chief executive David Tanner has spoken out following a report that two shareholders, investment firms Ryder Capital and Adam Smith Asset Management, which have a combined 15.4 per cent stake in Billabong, are undecided on the takeover.

Tanner on Thursday warned blocking the transaction would have serious consequences for Billabong.

“Voting against the transaction is simply irresponsible to shareholders and employees and blood will be on their hands,” Tanner told AAP.

“These guys are trying to make a name for themselves and make a statement but they are putting guns to their heads and to investors’ heads.”

After posting a half year net loss of $18.4 million in February, Billabong warned that a rejection of the takeover would cause management instability and force the company to substantially reduce its $138.6 million of debt.

Billabong would need to conduct a massive equity raising or sell assets and change its strategy for double digit earnings growth in order to do that.

Tanner said an asset sale would not come close to meeting Billabong’s debt obligations and if the deal is foiled, Billabong’s share price, which has had a boost from Boardrider’s offer, will likely fall.

He said the worst case scenario is that the company won’t be able to trade its way back or repay the debt when it is due in 18 months time, and end up in the hands of its lenders.

Shareholders banking on a higher offer from Boardriders or a better offer from another company are “very mistaken,” he said.

If push comes to shove, Tanner said Boardriders will pursue other opportunities.

“There are cheaper and easier options out there,” he said.

“Rip Curl has been heavily rumoured to be up for sale and there are other options out there so this is not the only alternative.”

Boardriders is majority-owned by US investment management firm Oaktree Capital which has a near-19 per cent stake in Billabong.

Adam Smith Asset Management declined to comment yesterday, but Boardriders issued another statement overnight, clarifying its view

“Boardriders Inc. notes the recent media coverage in Australia and seeks to clarify some of the statements,” the company said.

“The avoid any doubt, Boardriders reserves its right to take whatever action it considers to be in its best interests with respect to the acquisition of Billabong and the terms on which any such acquisition may take place.”

Billabong’s share price declined by more than 9 per cent on Friday morning trading under uncertainty over the deal.

Updated – 11:42AM AEDT 23/03/2018

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