C&N - Asian Market
Industry

C&N - Asian Market

Bart Kimman
9th August 2018

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To understand the Asian yachting industry you need a personality who has been at its forefront for three decades. As a champion ocean racer and esteemed broker, Camper & Nicholsons Asia’s Commercial Director has sailed yachts into every port in the East

My first job in Hong Kong was in banking in 1985. Back then Cathay Pacific had just started non-stop flights to London and Vancouver on the 747. Commuters wore Walkmans on the Star Ferry. And Britain’s Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had just signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This document turned the colony from an insular economy into an investment vehicle into China. The state's GDP rocketed from $35bn to today's $365bn, as its trading tentacles spread to the mainland.

It used to be the case that when a company announced the opening of an office in China, its share price would rise. Those days are long gone. Any venture needs to be backed by a deliberate masterplan that involves long-term industry players with personal connections to both buyer and seller. Fortunately, at Camper & Nicholsons Asia our brokerage strategy is exactly that. We have matched discerning yacht owners with the world’s leading shipyards since 1782.

My 33 years in Hong Kong have taught me that each nation operates by singular business principles. Banking, political and regulatory systems are diverse. Neighbours likes China and Vietnam have vastly different languages, currency rules and historic legacies. Aspects of Singapore and Myanmar are centuries apart. That’s why you can’t run an Asian business from Zurich or New York. And it’s why our office (and I don’t mean to boast) neighbours the Mandarin Oriental and Jardine House. If you do not live in Asia you have no connection with its people. As a businessperson, that doesn’t work.

In my job it also helps to feel a kinship with the sea. I was raised in Holland, a nation home to the equivalent of a mere 1% of China’s population, but which boasts half a million boats. In state schools children are taught to sail from a young age. I graduated into fast ocean racing before competing in the Rolex China Sea Race. Since the 1960s it has been Asia’s premier blue water race. Imagine a rainbow of sail sprinting from the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club around the Philippines and back. As you can imagine, many of the sailors are prominent captains of industry so the field is extremely competitive. I am delighted to say that my team won the IRC 2 class during the last contest. However, my hubris masks a serious point. As a superyacht broker I sell long-term investments worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions. In my opinion if you haven’t sailed it, you shouldn’t sell it.

Moreover, the stock I sell is not government bonds but an utterly unique product. For a sample of market diversity take these two yachts. Lionspirit is a 57m motoryacht that was styled by Espen Øino, the industry's leading name. As she nears completion her new owner can add a final design touch, or use existing interior proposals from London’s Reymond Langton or Milan’s Hotlab. This sale is typical as many shipyards build hulls on spec, then welcome client input during the final 12 months to 24 months of completion. A vastly different yacht for sale is 65m Lamima. Hand-built upon a beach in Indonesia and based upon centuries-old designs she is fitted out to superyacht standards with a PADI diving centre, Balinese massage studio and 1,200 square metres of sail. Should a buyer wish to defray the cost of purchase, she charters like a dream.

Brand matters in such a diverse market. Particularly so here in China. For example, Ferrari cars are icons of success, not least because they race through Shanghai during the F1 Grand Prix. A company like Camper & Nicholsons has never rested upon its heritage – nor can it afford to in this new epicentre of global yachting. Therefore a key part of my job is to introduce and educate potential buyers as they explore Europe’s leading yards. Once a client understands the integrity of a marque like Royal Huisman, the firm that built 90m Athena, a luxurious schooner with an electronic crow’s nest that rockets into the sky, they comprehend the shipyard’s workmanship, veracity and longevity. Smaller branded motoryachts from Benetti and Azimut are increasingly popular. Not every client wishes to spend a week at sea, so these yachts can cruise from a hotel jetty in Phuket, Macau or Singapore, then race back in time for dinner. Because we live in Asia we understand that modus operandi, and therefore our global shipyard partners do too.

More yachts are sailing East for pleasure. That’s great news because it makes the superyacht concept easier to grasp. I have sailed all around Southern Asia and spied my favourite yachts including 52m Mondango 2, a Dubois racing yacht with a Reymond Langton interior, and 57.5m Twizzle, a Royal Huisman that can tuck into Asia's shallowest anchorages. The 140m Fincantieri build Ocean Victory, and the 143m sailing yacht A, adore our shores.

This visitation by the world’s leading superyachts doesn’t surprise me. In my opinion the area has a far greater diversity than the Caribbean. We are talking tens of thousands of islands and over a dozen countries, each with their own beguiling histories. East Asia has 1.5 billion people compared with a mere 40 million across the Caribbean – and most them of them have an individual recipe to share, or a unique story to tell. My colleagues at Camper & Nicholsons Asia’s charter department are equally busy with clients from both East and West. Did you know that 4% of the Swedish population visits Thailand every year? They love the country as much as me.

Alas, my job isn’t all Thai prawn massaman and Veuve Clicquot. Hong Kong doesn’t sleep. Furthermore, one needs decades of industry experience to understand the detail, the documents, the contacts. Plus unlimited patience as one explains maintenance, delivery and post-sales care. Ultimate success boils down to an intimate knowledge of our clients’ expectations. In that way superyacht brokerage is similar to banking. It’s just a lot more fun.

Tags: Asia (Southeast) |
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