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Monday September 15, 2008

Strong growth seen in high-end luxury vessel market

ITALIAN luxury vessels company Fashion Yachts sees no let up in demand for its products as its high net worth customers sail through the credit crunch.

“Actually, there’s very strong growth in the high-end luxury market,” said Fashion Yachts founder and chief executive Fabrizio Politi.

Fabrizio Politi

“We represent the most luxurious and costliest yachts in the world and we are going pretty strongly.”

Fashion Yachts makes vessels from 17m to 85m in length which sell for 1.3 million euros (US$1.84mil) up to 72 million euros (US$101.9mil).

The company is distinguished from its other sleek competitors by the use of unusual materials, such as gold leaf and crocodile skin.

Fashion Yachts is also setting up private jet flights from Moscow and Dubai to the Pisa, Italy shipyard so that clients can visit their yachts as they are being built.

The company was riding the wave of demand from new markets such as Russia, China and India, Politi said.

“We will reap huge growth in the next 10 years from the global economic shift to the East that is expected to bring thousands and thousands of new millionaires starving for ‘made in Italy’ luxury,” he said.

“Total demand from China for mega yachts jumped 20% last year.”

Politi set up Fashion Yachts seven years ago and forecasted a turnover of about 100 million euros next year from 25 million euros last year.

Its main competitors are also Italian, namely Ferretti and Benetti.

The strength of demand for luxury yachts has prompted Ferretti, 51% owned by private equity fund Candover, to consider listing on the stock market later this year and it could decide this month whether to go ahead.

Politi said Fashion Yachts planned to list in 2011.

“We are uniting all our companies (which include boat maker, services provider, shipyard owner) and we want to get a bourse quotation from 2011,” he said.

Ferretti debuted on Milan’s bourse in 2000 but it was taken private again two years later by Permira, a leading European-based private equity firm, which then sold control to Candover, another leading European private equity firm in 2006.

Politi, who describes himself as “the stylist of the sea,” said Fashion Yachts’ unique offer was that it provided bespoke interior designs, music and lighting for the yachts.

It also offers post sales services such as crewing, maintenance and storing the purchased boats at the shipyard during winter.

A small yacht of 17m took 34 months to build, Politi said, while the mega yachts of about 70m took 36 months.

Buyers from around the world tend to keep the yachts in the Mediterranean, particularly in beauty spots such as France’s Cote d’Azur, Portofino in Italy, Sardinia and Monte Carlo.

And the most beautiful yacht in the world?

“The one we are building, the Fashion 88 Diamond,” Politi replied without hesitation.

The 26.5m model has a clear hard top flush to the prow and broad open deck at the stern. - Reuters

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