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If the results of the key early autumn '07 shows are anything to go by, all the 'Euro-Majors' are still looking good for their '07/08 years, says Phil Draper.

SEPTEMBER 2007

I know the summer’s over all too well because the silly season is upon us. I’ve just got back from back-to-back Cannes, Southampton and Monaco boat shows — the hard slog of the stands and pontoons that mark the start of the pleasureboat industry year in the northern hemisphere. And I know there’s a lot more of the same to come for those of us with a serious boat show calendar.
For me there’s now no prospect of a let-up now until the last of the spring shows in March/April!
This early autumn show season is always a key time for all of us. It can be a stressful time, not least for the fact that cranking up to speed for the raft of show schedules comes mighty hard after summer hols. For many there is also a little nervous anticipation, because what happens at these shows suggests what our markets have in store for the next 12 months and more.
For instance, Cannes is where I get to hear what the Euro-majors — the likes of Groupe Bénéteau, Azimut-Benetti and the Ferretti Group — have been up to during the middle of the year. Southampton is where I do ditto with Sunseeker, Princess, Fairline and Sealine, the UK’s four largest production boatbuilding operations. And Monaco, of course, is where all the superyacht chat takes in the year past and the year ahead.
These shows are what industry watchers like me feed on all year round.
So want to know my prognosis for the year?

“If all those Euro-majors are anything to go by the year ahead going to another cracker, and that’s despite lousy market conditions in the US that the worst pessimists have suggest will force the world economy into a tail spin.” 

Don’t worry. For the moment at least, it’s not bad news at all.
If all those Euro-majors are anything to go by, the year ahead is going to another cracker; and that’s despite lousy market conditions in the US that the worst industry pessimists have suggested will force the world economy into a tail spin. All the big guys on this side of the Atlantic seem set to break yet more records, not least for the fact that their backlogs extend to the end of 2008 and for popular and bigger models well beyond.
If anyone’s going to be worse off it will be the smaller builders and the builders of smaller boats. It seems the underlying message is clear: the bigger your company and the bigger your boats, the safer you will be.
Indeed, if Aldo Maccari, CEO of Candover Italy, and the whole massive Candover private-equity operation behind him that now owns the Ferretti Group, is right, the premium-boat market out there has changed. According to them the operation is now primed for a lot more growth over a lot more years. And one would hope the Ferretti Group has a good hook on things, not least for the fact that Candover’s acquisition valued it business at €1.65 billion.
Maccari is bullish for sure. But then he and his fellow money men would have to be, wouldn’t they?
“Cyclicality at the premium end of the spectrum is no longer with us,” says Maccari. Wow.
I’m not sure that I agree with him, but I’ll certainly be watching progress; and will be perfectly happy to be proved wrong!

© Phil Draper