Billabong posts first annual loss

AILING surf wear company Billabong will close 82 struggling stores after it announced a $275 million net loss on Monday.

The result was the company's first loss since 2001 and highlighted just how far it has plummeted in a short space of time.Billabong shares were trading at $1.31 on Monday, significantly less than the $17 traded just five years ago.

The store closures, combined with the shutting down of 58 under-performing stores in the past financial year, are expected to save the company $6 million before tax in the current financial year.

A Billabong spokesman said the bulk of the store closures would be overseas.

Closing under-performing stores formed part of the strategic capital restructure announced in February.

News of the loss, no doubt, will increase pressure on Billabong's major shareholder, board member and founder Gordon Merchant.

Mr Merchant is perhaps best known in the Clarence Valley for his multi-million-dollar home at Angourie built across three blocks.

In February, he used his 15% stake in the company to block an $850-million takeover bid by TPG Capital.

The United States private equity firm remains interested in Billabong and currently is examining the books.

The Billabong spokesman would not comment on TPG interest's interest in a takeover other than to say "due diligence was under way".

Meanwhile, Billabong used Monday's announcement to reveal details of a four-year strategy designed to reverse the company's fortunes.

Billabong CEO Launa Inman said in a statement the strategy would target "cost savings and revenue growth".

The "transformation strategy" will be aimed at simplifying the business, globalising its supply chain and leveraging Billabong's brands.

The strength of the Australian dollar added to the company's not insignificant challenges.

Despite its struggling share price and significant 2011-12 loss, Billabong CEO Launa Inman said she was confident the company remained profitable.

"As previously flagged to the market, the group's results have been adversely impacted by various significant and exceptional items," Ms Inman said.

Topics:  asx, billabong, profits, stock market, surfwear



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