Superyacht builders wary of landlubbers among new rich

Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:53am EST
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By Chris Vellacott

LONDON (Reuters) - The glamour, champagne-soaked launches, astronomical price tags and celebrity clients belie a mounting unease in the world of superyacht building, according to industry insiders.

The billionaire financier clients of the pre-financial crisis world are fewer and the new rich of Asia with the kind of money needed to spend at least $100 million on a holiday gin palace just aren't that into boats.

"The business has been going through a lot of change in the past four years," says Henk de Vries, head of shipbuilder Feadship which recently completed the 80-metre (yard) Venus motoryacht, reportedly ordered by the late Apple founder Steve Jobs and impounded in Amsterdam for unpaid bills.

"Leading up to the third quarter 2008, our market was going absolutely nuts, it was bonkers. The years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 were years I think will never come again."

De Vries spoke to Reuters at a gathering of superyacht builders and designers in London's gilded Mayfair neighborhood. The weatherbeaten faces, and tatty outdoor clothing of the London boatshow being held across town were largely absent from this event, marked by expensively cut lounge suits and designer frocks.

The partygoers work in a world catering to the tastes of clients who want boats of up to 100 meters long, often equipped with helipads and submarines, with multiple suites fitted out and designed with no expense spared.

Anyone thinking of buying such a vessel should budget for about $1 million per meter of boat, according to Andrew Winch, founder of west London-based designer Andrew Winch Designs which kits out not just boats, but also private jets and homes.

A superyacht buyer should also expect to spend about 10 percent of the purchase price every year in running costs.   Continued...