Australia’s “big three” surf brands have found themselves in choppy financial waters.
Last week, Billabong, one of Australia’s most iconic surf brands confirmed a $386 million refinancing agreement with US consortium Centerbridge-Oaktree Capital Management acquiring a 40% share, guaranteeing the struggling brand’s short-term future after it posted an $859 million loss last financial year.
Like Billabong, public surf company Quiksilver has reported declining revenues, asset write-downs and growing losses, recently announcing third-quarterly earnings had declined 84%. Privately-owned Rip Curl has also been in profit free-fall. In mid-2012 Rip Curl founders Brian Singer and Doug Warbrick engaged Bank of America Merrill Lynch to help source a prospective buyer for the brand. The planned sale was abandoned in March with a lack of interest at the asking price of $400 million.
The current woes are a long way from the heady days of the 1990s and 2000s, which saw each of the big three surf brands aggressively pursue international expansion and high-profile sports sponsorship deals.
So, why have the Big Three surf brands found themselves struggling? And what is the way to calmer waters?