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SBD Global/August 28, 2012/Finance

Billabong Sets Sights On Reversing Downward Sales Trend

Australian clothing retailer Billabong outlined a plan to boost profitability after reporting an annual loss, and added that U.S.-based private equity firm TPG "had started due diligence on the company," according to Gavin Lower of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Billabong reported a A$275M (US$287M) net loss in the year to June 30 after booking A$336M in costs—mostly non-cash impairments. The company, known for its iconic surfwear, reported a net profit of A$119M a year earlier. Billabong outlined a "transformation strategy" aimed at growing earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization by some A$155M by '16. It said the growth would be achieved by "closing less profitable outlets, making its products and stores more appealing, investing in its e-commerce platform, and integrating its global supply chain" (WSJ, 8/27).

QUICK FIX: In Sydney, Blair Speedy reported that a "quick fix" to cut 15% of the product portfolio and close a further 82 stores this financial year would boost pre-tax earnings by A$10M. The company would also "increase marketing expenditure on its core brands, aimed at returning the company to sales growth and lifting earnings" before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and one-off items by 150% over the next four years to A$210M. Brisbane-based Hunter Green Institutional Broker Charlie Green described the strategy as "like something from Macbeth -- full of sound and fury but signifying nothing." He added that the company was "likely to be bought out by TPG before its plans could bear fruit" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/28). Also in Sydney, Eli Greenblat wrote that Billabong CEO Launa Inman said she had also identified several ''quick wins'' that included the closure of 82 stores, to take total store shutdowns to 140, and a reshuffling of staff rosters that would generate A$30M in savings by '13. Inman: ''My role is to ensure that Billabong becomes a good company again regardless of whether TPG is in the picture or not. My objective is to ensure that it is business as usual and do what we need to do to transform this business to take it up to the profits we are talking about." (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/28).
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