If owning a yacht is a status symbol, what does it mean to own or invest in a shipyard? Depending on the yard, there are a number of courses the investors can chart. There are the owners that want to reshape the yard in their vision, and there are investors who just offer a capital infusion and allow the shipyards to continue growing. Here is part two of three in our shipyard acquisitions series.
Sunseeker, June 2010 and August 2013
Photo courtesy of Dalian Wanda Group
At the 2012 London boat show, Sunseeker debuted its new 28-meter yacht in the convention center. The yard proved with a bang that the shipyard, if anyone had ever doubted, had found its bearings following a £25 million investment and refinancing by FL Partners.
The deal with the Dublin-based investment firm, founded by Neill Hughes and Peter Crowley, kept co-founder Robert Braitwaite as the largest shareholder and president while adding additional members to the builder’s board.
Neill Hughes of FL Partners said in a statement at the time of the investment that “We are delighted to be investing in one of the strongest global yacht businesses alongside Robert and the management team, and believe that Sunseeker’s geographic reach, its fantastic brand and its continued new boat development programme positions the business for a very exciting future over the coming years.”
Both Sunseeker and FL Partners declined to comment on the deal with Neill Hughes saying, “In common with all private equity investors, we don’t ever comment on [or] discuss investments in the public arena.”
However, the Financial Times reported in 2010 that Sunseeker “The periods with less work were devoted to cross functional training, which will be useful in the coming months in terms of flexibility.”
“What attracted us was that right through the recession, Robert kept on investing, almost to his detriment in the end, and revenues never took a real hit as a consequence,” says Crowley in the Telegraph in 2011. “The company wasn’t immune but the problems weren’t about the core business. He just ran into liquidity issues. The only thing that was missing was financial stability.”
Moving forward, the 2011 Telegraph article reports that Sunseeker plans to return to its roots with smaller yachts with the launch of a 40-footer in 2012. However, the new concepts range from the 40-foot Portofino to the yard’s first trideck megayacht. The 155-foot semi-displacement is scheduled to launch in 2014.
This August, Sunseeker changed hands again with the Chinese commercial property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group taking a majority shareholder position in the shipyard. Estimates put the deal at approximately £300 for a 92% stake in the company.
Chairman Wang Jianlin, recently named China’s richest man, visited the Poole yard shortly after the completion of the acquisition. In a speech at the shipyard, Wang said the Wanda group planned to invest a substantial amount of money into the yard and explore the possibility of a yard in China. There are no current plans either for layoffs to the 2,500-strong workforce or to move production from Poole, England.
Apreamare, March 2010
Photo courtesy of Apreamare
In 2010, nine years after Ferretti bought Apreamare from the Aprea and Pollio families, the founders purchased the company back as part of debt restructuring on Ferretti’s part.
The deal included the Apreamare and Maestro yacht brands as well as the Naples-area shipyard. Apreamare has been building the Gozzo Sorrentino-style yachts since 1849 while Maestro focuses on modern design.
“The sale of this historical brand will allow us to focus even more closely on medium and large yachts and to better satisfy our customers’ needs” commented Salvatore Basile, Chief Executive Officer, Ferretti Group, in a statement at the time of the sale. “Our Group will continue to enjoy a collaborative relationship with Apreamare. In fact, our two companies are in the process of reaching an agreement under which the Apreamare shipyard will remain one of the most important Service operations of the Ferretti Group for the middle and lower Tyrrhenian, an area of great strategic importance.”
No word was ever released about the agreement being reached.
Oceanco, March 2010
Photo courtesy of Oceanco
Founded in 1989, Oceanco launched its first yacht the following year. Since that time, the yard has launched 24 yachts, most of which rank among the 100 largest yachts in the world.
In 2010, Omani businessman Mohammed al Barwani purchased the yard. Although Barwani owns MB Holding Company, LLC, which focuses on the oil, gas, manufacturing, and mineral industries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific region, he has owned a series of motoryachts over the years and says he’s always loved the water. Sixteen-year veteran of the company, Marcel Onkenhout, remains at the helm of the company as CEO.
In a statement at the time of the acquisition, Barwani says, “I see Oceanco as a great brand. The company offers an outstanding growth opportunity as the world economy recovers. Oceanco’s order book is healthy and the business shows a strong balance sheet.”
Barwani’s investment came six months prior to the Monaco Yacht Show, where the new owner was able to introduce himself and his plans for the yard. He compared the yachting industry to “art floating on the water.”
“The best way to pay homage to your love is to get into the yachting business,” he continued.
Moving forward, the investment will helped the yard pursue contracts for larger yachts. The first step was the construction a new shed with a 541-foot (165-meter) drydock. There are already two yachts longer than 328 feet (100 meters) under construction. Moran Yacht & Ship is overseeing construction of the 354-foot (108-meter) sailing vessel Solar, which will be able to be powered entirely by solar power. Solar would have been the largest yacht built in Holland, if it weren’t for another yacht under construction at Oceanco, a 360-footer (110-meter) managed by Burgess.
“We’ll always build one spec boat,” Barwani said in Monaco. “There’s always one customer — me. The day we sell it, I’ll be both happy and sad.”