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Deal of the day: China superyacht special

December 1, 2010

by Guy Dinmore, published December 1 2010

Chinese companies are taking advantage of hard times in Europe by moving into Italy’s superyacht sector, buying well known brands that have fallen into bankruptcy.

The latest acquisition, brought at auction on Monday through administrators appointed by a Milan court, is Cantieri Navali di Lavagna (CNL), sold for €13.1m to ProMarine Service, an Italian company owned by China’s Nautic Star Marine.

Chinese companies are on “a heavy buying spree”, targeting historic Italian brands that have fallen victim to the 2008-09 recession, says Angelo Colombo, a writer for Nautica and SuperYacht magazines.

CNL is well known for its light aluminium, fast-planing superyachts but went bankrupt early this year.

Italy, the world leader in building superyachts, saw a collapse of more than 30 per cent in overall yacht production last year, with revenues tumbling to €4.25bn. The industry appears to be picking up this year, but the focus is on smaller craft.

Enrico Zanella – who is Italy’s honorary consul in China’s coastal city of Qingdao, where Nautic Star Marine is based, and was also a representative for the Chinese buyers at the Milan auction — says CNL’s future customers are Chinese. But he stressed that production would be kept at the current boatyard under Italian management and with its present 15-strong workforce.

The “Made in Italy” mark was important for his clients, says Zanella, a partner in ProMarine Service, adding that further acquisitions of Italian builders were possible.

Last year, however, a well known Venetian superyacht maker, Dalla Pieta’, had a very different experience. Saving it from bankruptcy, the new Chinese owners, Millennium Marine, transferred moulds and technology to China. Italian builders were offered lower-paid jobs in China but turned them down.

Colombo says Chinese entrepreneurs want to acquire established western brands, using their technology for the long-term development of the Chinese market. China’s northern port of Tianjin announced plans in October to develop a luxury superyacht marina.

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