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TIAA-CREF Takes 5.2% Billabong Stake Amid Private-Equity Offers

TIAA-CREF, owner of the fourth-largest U.S. life and health insurer, took a 5.2 percent stake in surfwear maker Billabong International Ltd. amid rival A$527 million ($548 million) bids for the company.

The group’s TIAA-CREF Investment Management LLC unit and Teachers Advisors Inc. bought about 25 million shares on Feb. 4, it said in a statement today. TIAA-CREF, a group of companies whose full name is the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association -- College Retirement Equities Fund, manages about $502 billion in retirement funds for about 3.7 million teachers and other public service workers, according to its website.

No external stockholder has announced buying more than 375,000 shares in Billabong since the company recorded its first annual loss in August, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The acquisition makes TIAA-CREF the fifth-biggest shareholders in Australia’s largest surf company, as private equity-backed groups led by former Bain & Co. alumni examine competing A$1.10-a-share indicative offers.

“Our assumption is there’s a better-than-50-50 chance that one of the deals goes ahead,” Grant Saligari, a Melbourne-based analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG, said by phone.

Billabong shares rose 1.1 percent to 96.5 Australian cents at 11:34 a.m. in Sydney, their highest level since Jan. 25.

The funds bought stock in a series of transactions between October and February from about 84 Australian cents to A$1.05 a share, according to the filing.

Altamont Capital Partners has tied up with Lee jeans maker VF Corp., while Sycamore Partners Management is working with Billabong’s Americas head Paul Naude on competing bids for the Gold Coast, Australia-based company.

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