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Billabong signs refinancing deal; appoints new chief executive

A Billabong employee opens the company store in central Sydney August 27, 2012. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz
A Billabong employee opens the company store in central Sydney August 27, 2012. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

By Jackie Range

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's Billabong International Ltd accepted a sweetened refinancing proposal from U.S. hedge 'funds Oaktree Capital Management and Centerbridge Partners, and appointed an industry veteran as its new chief executive.

The moves could help the surfwear company turn around its performance, which has been hit by slumping sales of its key brands and a costly expansion strategy since it knocked back a A$850 million ($794.71 million) private equity bid last year.

Oaktree and Centerbridge have been vying with U.S. private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners to refinance the business, with Billabong previously accepting a proposal from Altamont.

Neil Fiske, the company's new chief executive sourced by Centerbridge and Oaktree, was previously a senior adviser on retail at Canadian private equity firm Onex Corp , and chief executive of outdoors clothing and accessories brand Eddie Bauer .

Centerbridge and Oaktree offered a raft of sweeteners to the Billabong board to get the deal over the line, including reducing the price Billabong's shareholders will be offered shares in a rights issue to A$0.28 a share from A$0.30.

Billabong's shares rose 7.8 percent to A$0.49 after the announcement, compared with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index which was up 1.2 percent.

($1 = 1.0696 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Jackie Range; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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