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Volume 10 No. 22


Australian surfwear company Billabong received a A$526.8M ($555.1M) "takeover offer from a group including U.S. clothing maker VF Corp., setting the stage for a bidding contest," according to Gavin Lower of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Billabong said that the offer of A$1.10 a share from VF and Altamont Capital Partners "matched a bid from a group that includes private-equity firm Sycamore Partners, ex-Billabong Dir Paul Naude and the Bank of America Merrill Lynch unit of Bank of America Corp." VF said that "it was primarily interested in the Billabong brand as a means to continue the U.S. company's pursuit of action-sports properties." VF's brands include Nautica, Wrangler, Timberland and The North Face (WSJ, 1/14). In Sydney, Blair Speedy reported Billabong said that the VF consortium "would be granted access to its accounts to conduct due diligence." The company said, "Billabong will now run a process to evaluate whether a change of control proposal, at a price and on terms that the board would recommend, can be secured. This process is expected to take approximately six weeks." The company noted that there was "no guarantee that an acceptable binding proposal would be forthcoming from either bidder, and advised shareholders to take no action." The offer "came after the market closed" Monday with Billabong shares sitting at 84.5c (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/15). In N.Y., Cynthia Koons wrote on the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Deal Journal Australia blog Billabong's shareholders "have gotten their hopes up only to see bids fade in the past, but there is good reason to believe this time may be different." VF Corp. and Altamont Capital "are bidding after Billabong’s earnings downgrade is a sign they are not scared off by the headwinds facing the company" (WSJ, 1/14).

The battle over factory pay in Indonesia "is intensifying, with vocal local trade unions joining hands with a U.S. non-governmental organisation to pressure Nike suppliers into paying minimum wages," according to Ben Bland of the FINANCIAL TIMES. A "gap is opening up between employers, who argue that hefty minimum wage increases are destroying their profitability," and trade unions, which argue that "wages must rise further and employment conditions be improved." The Jakarta city government hiked the minimum wage by 44% to Rp 2.2M ($228) on Jan. 1, "and other provinces have followed suit with hefty increases." Indonesia is Nike's third biggest source for shoes, after only Vietnam and China, with 40 factories and 171,000 workers, 79% of whom are women. The campaigners have also accused Nike suppliers of "intimidating workers to accept the wages below the legal minimum." The U.S. company states in its code of conduct that it expects all contract factory workers to be paid at least the minimum wage required by the respective country law. Nike said it "takes these claims seriously" and is investigating them (FT, 1/14).

Former A-League club Adelaide United head coach Rini Coolen is suing the club for A$2.2M ($2.3M) "after his sacking" in Dec. '11. Dutch-born Coolen's demands were outlined at the opening of a trial in the South Australian District Court on Monday and include almost A$1.3M "to pay out the three-and-a-half years he had left on his contract" (AAP, 1/14). ... La Liga club Deportivo La Coruna is seeking assistance "to avoid going out of business" after filing for bankruptcy protection. The club is more than €100M ($134M) in debt (SOCCEREX, 1/11). ... Russian basketball team Khimki "could go bankrupt in the near future." Last year's runner-up in the Russian domestic league has been "having financial problems since a change in ownership" in late '12 (RUSSIA TODAY, 1/11).