Yachting: The Chinese are heading for Italy

Genoa - Not only Ferretti: Asian Groups are interested in other yacht builders. Announcements are expected by the end of the year. Beijing is using the availability of capital as leverage. The first case in Veneto in 2009.

di Matteo Dell’Antico

Genoa - In some cases negotiations have already started, in others only contact has been made. The protagonists in these cases, according to sources familiar with the matter, are at least two major Chinese groups that are considering the possibility of entering the Made in Italy yachting sector. According to the increasingly insistent rumours that are making the rounds among operators in the yachting sector, in recent weeks interest from Asian companies in acquiring Italian shipyards has reached levels that suggest the announcement of agreements between the parties before the end of 2016 can be expected. Agreements that would follow the trajectory of the Ferretti Group only a few years ago. Ferretti, which is one of the largest producers of luxury yachts in the world, was acquired in 2012 by the Chinese SHIG-Weichai Group, which took control with a 75% stake (which has now risen to 87%). The shipyard, which never relocated its production to China, in the meantime announced the entry of the Ferrari family into the company, with a 13% stake. And there is more: many Italian shipyards, more than ever in recent years, are desperately looking for partners who can guarantee new liquidity. And in China fresh capital is certainly not lacking - and is in search of fresh investment opportunities.

There was also talk of the possible entry of a foreign stakeholder in Azimut/Benetti, instead, one year ago, Italy’s own Tamburi Investment Partners entered into the company. Tamburi is a publicly traded merchant bank (STAR) that owns stakes in several Made in Italy companies. On the other hand, in 2013, a joint venture with an Asian company was entered into by the Sanlorenzo shipyard, which signed an agreement to produce boats from 10 to 20 metres in length in China, and to sell 22 to 62-metre boats built in Italy, in Asia. In 2009, the Venetian company Dalla Pietà Yacht was the first Italian shipyard to end up in Asian hands, after being acquired by the Chinese giant Wantong Group. One year later, in 2010, the Italo-Chinese Pro Marine Service came forward to buy the Cantieri Navali Lavagna shipyard, although negotiations didn’t come to fruition. But there are also examples of the inverse, that is, of Italian entrepreneurs in the yachting sector who have set foot in China. An example of this is Andrea Giannecchini, the sole director of the largest company in the world that applies home automation technology to the yachting sector, which has been gathered under the Yachtica brand since 2001. In 2011, Giannecchini initiated commercial relations with China, in particular with the Island of Hainan, creating a joint venture between a Chinese partner and an Italian NewCo created ad hoc to provide services to sporting units.