YARD UPDATE '08: Hanse Yachts...

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Yard Updates

Germany's second-largest production boatbuilder; bigger Hanses; new Bill Dixon-design Moodys; and more Fjords...


Hanse Yachts AG has come a very long way since it built its first 29-footer in ‘93. What started out as a ‘budget’ builder selling new versions of old sailing cruiser models under an inflatable ‘preishammer’ – roughly translated as ‘knock-down prices’ - at just the German shows, March ’07 saw it float on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. It now ranks as Germany’s second-largest and Europe and the world’s fourth-largest production sailing cruiser operation and recent diversifications look set to net it all manner of other accolades in the future, and not only as a sailboat builder.
At the time of the flotation, founder and CEO Michael Schmidt, who retained around 64 per cent of the company’s shares in the flotation, told IBI that “the funds raised will allow the company to diversify, not only with new product lines, but also by acquisition… Maybe we’ll find a few complementary sailboat brands or perhaps a powerboat operation or two… Or maybe both, it depends on what we can find.”
It didn’t take him long.

  'The provisional goal for its ‘08/09 year is €175 million-plus...' 

A year ago in March Hanse Yachts announced that it had acquired the rights to the famous British sailboat trademark Moody. Michael Schmidt’s vision for that brand involves development of premium-position deck-saloon cruisers, a sector not exploited by Hanse thus far. Hanse Yachts is developing the range with UK-based designer Bill Dixon, who was responsible for most of the most recent Moodys. Moody production, however, will take place in Hanse facilities in Germany.
The first new Moody launched this spring, the Moody 45DSe. While she broadly fits with what we expect of a deck-saloon design, her looks and styling effectively define a whole new niche. In fact there’s nothing quite like the new Moody on the market at the moment. Essentially she’s got the lines and styling of a very modern motor-sailer, complete with patio doors from the saloon to the aft cockpit, yet she’s also got the sail plan and performance of good deck-saloon model. It will be very interesting to see how well she sells. Most consumer sailing magazines that have tested one thus far suggest potential buyers will either love or hate the styling, but all record the she sails really well.
We’ll probably see a Moody 40DSe next. But ultimately the plan is to build up a complete range spanning 10.7-21.3m (35-70ft).
In most cases the high-end Moodys will be sold via a different dealer network than the Hanse sailing cruisers.
Moody is Hanse’s second diversification of the past couple of years. Its other comes under the Fjord brand. The first model to bear the brand was the Fjord 40 Open – designed you will not be surprised to hear by Patrick Benfield, the guy responsible for the Wally Tender, and Mark Tacker. Complete with Volvo Penta IPS drives, she was shown for the first time at Dusseldorf ‘07. Then last summer saw the launch of the cabin version, the Fjord 40 Cruiser.
Following the Fjord 40, we would guess we’ll soon see a similar concept Fjord 35/36 and then probably a Fjord 45/46. Eventually over the next five years the plan is for the Fjord line-up to swell to 10 or so models spanning 6.4-19.8m (21-65ft). So not surprisingly Hanse has high hopes for a ‘sexy’ Fjord range, which several decades ago was actually one of the biggest boat brands in Europe.
As for its core portfolio, the Hanse range now spans 9.8-19.2m (32-63ft) and supports eight Judel/Vrolijk-designed performance cruiser models. The designations are the Hanse 320, 350, 370, 400, 430, 470e, 540e and the two-year-old flagship 630e, where of course the ‘e’ denotes epoxy resin usage as standard. Epoxies are optional with the rest of the range. Note a new flagship has already begun. Nothing more is being said as regards that one, but it’s a safe bet that it will be somewhere between 21-23m (69-75ft).
So Hanse Yachts AG is still firmly on the growth trail. Its sales from almost 900 delivered boats to the end of July ‘07 reached €108.6 million, which was over target and up a colossal 56.5 per cent on the previous period’s €67.5 million. Its forecast for the current ‘07/08 financial year is €135 million, a figure reconfirmed in its half yearly report published in February this year. If achieved, those sales will mean its unit tally has jumped to around the 1,050-boat mark. New-boat sales represent around 96 per cent of its turnover.
The provisional goal for its ‘08/09 year is €175 million-plus.
Highlighting just how far the company has developed over the past decade, its turnover in ’99 was just €8 million or so.
Hanse Yachts currently employs around 550 people in all — 400 at the main facility in Greifswald on Germany’s Baltic coast, which is now being more or less constantly expanded, plus 150 or so at a big boat assembly operation nearby – which was recently expanded to accommodate even bigger sailboats up to 23m (75ft), and soon bigger motorboats also -- and at its TTS subsidiary in Poland.
It also subcontracts some of its moulding requirements. For instance, the Fjord hulls come from outside the company. Overall Hanse Yachts derives around 80 per cent of its sales from export markets and the distribution net cover just above every worthwhile market in the world.
Interestingly, its modular approach to boatbuilding allows the Fjords and Moodys to be produced alongside the Hanses. But don’t think for a moment that this implies low tech production system. Hanse uses plenty of CNC technology and has recruited plenty of its production management team from the automotive sector.
“We’ve managed to marry automation with flexibility,” says Schmidt.
Yes Hanse Yachts’s approach is very different from Bavaria, but nevertheless it claims to have got its labour-to-sales ratio down to 10.7 per cent, which is extremely good and not so very far from Bavaria’s sub-10 per cent figure. Now that it’s a publicly quoted ‘AG’ or ‘Aktiengesellschaft’ operation you can download its financial reports from www.hanseyachts.de; they make interesting reading.

For more, www.hanseyachts.com.

© Phil Draper