Succumbing to M&A wave, Australian surf brand Rip Curl is snapped up by Kathmandu

SYDNEY (Reuters) - New Zealand outdoor clothing maker Kathmandu Holdings KMD.NZ said it will buy Rip Curl Group for A$350 million ($236 million) in a deal that sees the last of Australia's big three surf brands fall to overseas control.

Kathmandu said the acquisition would make it a NZ$1 billion ($625 million) company, expand its presence in Europe and North America and give it a “seasonal balance” between Rip Curl’s summer/beach focus and Kathmandu’s winter/outdoor offerings.

Started in 1969 by surfer friends Brian Singer and Douglas Warbrick and still based at popular Bells Beach, Rip Curl with local rivals Billabong and Quiksilver ranked among the world’s biggest brands for sales of wetsuits, boardshorts and branded beach t-shirts.

The sale closes a chapter on Australia’s once central role in surfwear culture. U.S. private equity firm Oaktree Capital gained control of Billabong and Quiksilver over the past three years following troubled efforts by the companies to expand globally.

Singer and Warbrick will gain shares in Kathmandu as will Rip Curl CEO Michael Daly, who will continue in his role and report to Kathmandu Chief Executive Xavier Simonet, the companies said in the statement.

Clothing retailers around the world are paring back brick-and-mortar operations to compete with online giants like Britain's ASOS Plc ASOS.L and low-cost "fast fashion" chains such as Zara, owned by Spain's Industria de Diseno Textil SA ITX.MC.

The fiercer competition has coincided with broader economic headwinds which have prompted central banks to cut lending rates, making it cheaper to buy out other companies.

“We are seeing rates being cut around the world, which means the cost of capital for foreign entities is getting much cheaper... so we’ll probably see more M&A because of that,” said Daniel Cuthbertson, managing director of Value Point Asset Management.

After buying Rip Curl, Kathmandu said it would have 341 of its own stores around the world, plus 254 licensed stores in Australia, New Zealand, North America, Europe, South East Asia and Brazil.

Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney; Additional reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Edwina Gibbs